Friday, November 1, 2013

Tally Counting to Personal Change

Tally Counters by Wesha of Wikipedia CommonsAfter years of procrastinating on it, I'm finally getting myself a sports tally counter, that clicker device used to count. Oh, it'll help with so many self-improvement goals! I've used other things like putting tally marks in a notepad or transferring pennies from one pocket to another, but this will make the practice the smoothest possible.

The device may not look that valuable, but, using the right method, it can be an outrageously potent self-improvement aid, and I've always been extremely pleased by what a great help it is.

In short, my love for this technique is that it uses awareness to crush unwanted habits. What I do is define the perimeters of a habit I'm trying to get rid of, and whenever I notice a violation I take note of that incident, such as by putting that slash in a notepad, transferring a penny, or soon to be clicking that counter. With absolute consistency, it's shocking how fast a habit changes.


For instance, I first thought to use this method when I noticed some years ago I had an unpleasant conversational habit. I used to take "pleasure" in bringing up negative things, such as the latest bad movie I saw, so that I could enjoy taking knocks at it. Even if it was fun to me, I recognized that made me offputting as a person, and wanted to get rid of that habit.

The tricky part, of course, is that it was a habit, meaning it takes little effort to initiate. Oftentimes after setting the goal a few negative statements would slip out before I caught myself and felt disappointed that the habit seemed to be living on its own.

Thus, I tried crushing it by awareness. I'd forgive myself for any one slip -- but I had to ensure I was aware of each and every incident, so that there's no way possible for me to temporarily forget my goal, rank up violations, and notice only after it's too late, after those repetitions have gone a ways in solidifying the habit.

At the time, my particular awareness method was a notepad. Any time I made a violation, I had to put a tally mark in  it. That's it. No associated punishment, no effort in recording scores on the computer, or anything beyond that. Just tally marks.

Those tally marks worked like a miracle, for keeping consistent with the practice made it impossible for me to forget that I had that conversational goal. Without even heightening my attention, the tally marks left a standing awareness of what I was trying to do, and the habit rapidly lost power within the week, a very fast rate of change. Very rapidly I had succeeded: I totally stopped being a negative Nancy like that.

There after I became hooked on this method's great power!

It makes perfect sense. With some exceptions, the annoyance of bad habits is that they're so easy to initiate, oftentimes so easy that they practically initiate themselves without our intention or planning to, like a reflex. By the time we notice a series of repetitions it's too late: They've gone and reaffirmed that habit's strength. It can be hard to keep up motivation to change habits when it's hard to go against their grain.

Awareness is a powerful tool. If you can train it with the above method, then it becomes increasingly impossible to engage in those repetitions unknowingly; your awareness increases and increases with each repetition counted, and soon enough it becomes natural to be fully aware of your behavior and avoid the mistakes. With enough time passing, a bad habit is deceased and a new one born!

I'm getting the above clicker because when you define the perimeters right, such repetitions counting can be beneficial to most goals, and can be reworked to be usable throughout a lifetime.

For instance, one of my immediate interests is to change my thinking habits. I have an embarrassing problem of eating too much dark chocolate, and I realize one of the key provocations in the habit is that I allow myself to think about indulgences and to construct rationalizations for them.

Aside from my goal to simply stop buying those chocolates, I could use the sports tally counter to count each time I visualize an indulgence, make a plan to do it, or try to construct a rationalization for it. If those occur, I must click the device and immediately counter with explanations as to why my thoughts and rationalizations are irrational, and remind myself of the goal and purpose of abstention.

Here this example switching from changing an external habit (negative conversation) to an internal habit (irrational thinking in regards to an excess indulgence). Such will change my mind, literally.

Or one could actually define a goal to intentionally get as many clicks as possible, to focus more on creating a habit rather than eliminating one.

Say, mental math. Let us say you value a mentally internalized math competence, where you depended on your human calculator skills more than an actual calculator, the latter of which can weaken your abilities if depended on too much. You could set a goal that you'll click the device every single time you fully complete a mathematical equation -- such as adding up the price and sales tax of your groceries, adding up the letters of a store title, or whatever else comes to mind -- and make a game of seeing how high you can make your "score." Higher and higher daily numbers confirm it's becoming more and more habituated to do this.

Oh! So many possibilities! Call me silly to be excited about getting my counter, but I'm excited.

Out of all the self-improvement methods I've used over the many years I've been a self-improvement junkie, this is definitely one of the most effective tools in the tool kit. Anyone sincere in constant self-change should strongly consider making this an essential element.

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