Designing your onramp for starting new things

First, the story of how I started getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, and exercising. I started CrossFit in the second week of December, 2011. By the time the holiday rush started, I was already caught up in the excitement of starting something new. By the time New Years rolled around, I had put in three weeks of introductory classes. The muscle soreness was constant and totally fun. On January 2nd, I made sure to be back in Tokyo at a reasonable hour and dragged myself out of bed the next morning for my last intro class. Next step, group classes with the big kids!

By the time February snuck up, a 2-3 times a week routine was more or less established. In March, I participated in the CrossFit Open. It’s now April, and I’m actually going to class on Saturday morning, too. (Getting up before noon on the weekend is more foreign to me than Olympic weightlifting….) Whoo!

A clear day at Kenrokuen, morning of Dec 30th
A clear day at Kenrokuen, morning of Dec 30th

What if this had been a New Year’s resolution situation, like it easily could have been?

December would have been a parade of late night takeouts, interrupted by the usual beer and bad food at bonenkais. The holidays would have been the usual bumming around, interspersed with bouts of nagging guilt. The beginning of January would have been a surge of effort, gradually fading away in the onset of beginning-of-the-year craziness. By the time February came about, the good intentions for healthier lifestyles would have faded away.

There’s a lot of social stigma that we internalize regarding New Year’s resolutions that actually gets in the way of getting those habits to stick.

New Year’s as a concept can be separated from the physical New Year’s.

Now, the awesomeness of CrossFit and the Chikara Cross Fit box probably has something to do with it 😉 but the way I timed it helped a lot in easing the way for what is essentially a major lifestyle change.

A huge part of service design is nudging behavioral change, and this is something I’ve been thinking a lot recently.

You know what they say about how the best time to start is now? I think there could be a second part of that statement about designing an onramp for how you start so that the chances of it sticking are greatly increased. Getting back on the wagon after the habit has lapsed takes a lot of mental energy. Trying to get on the wagon in the first place also requires a lot of effort.

It would just be easier all around to take a running leap onto the wagon, stay there, and not have to think about it.

Where the wagon is going to take you is what’s exciting…! Okay, that’s taking the metaphor too far. I’ll end the post now, and think about this topic some more.