You thought my 30 rejection therapy challenge was crazy – wait till you hear Bevan Barton’s story. About a month ago I met Bevan at the SF Blogger Club Meetup – it was a community development and sales prospecting opportunity for us but for Bevan, it was a chance to hit one of his daily habits – going to a social event. Turns out he’s basically trying to adopt 30 new habits at any given time – a journey he’s chronicling at on his site: http://lifeismywife.com
I had to learn more and share his story with readers of this site so we’ve put together this interview. Incidentally, I think this is going to kick off a series of interviews I call “Kick Ass Interviews” or KAI’s, where essentially I’ll be interviewing people who I think kick ass. Pretty straightforward right? Let’s get started…
JS: Hey Bevan, thanks for agreeing to the interview. Can you tell our readers who you are and what your site is about?
BB: I’m a pretty regular guy who tackles big challenges. I’ve been an ultramarathon cyclist, a world traveler, and a web entrepreneur. I grew up in the Bay Area in California and graduated from Middlebury College as a Computer Science major last spring.
My blog is about my experiments in personal growth. Right now I’m picking up a new daily habit every day for sixty days, and rehearsing each habit for at least thirty consecutive days. I have over fifty daily habits now, and many of the older ones have become unconscious parts of my daily routine.
My goal is to make continual improvement an unconscious part of my life. Specifically, I want to acquire the habit of acquiring new habits (I call this the meta-habit). After my sixty-day trial, my natural inclination should be to continue adding habits when I see opportunities for personal growth.
JS: That’s amazing. I love personal development and habit creation, but you are just taking it to a whole new level. Props. What made you decide to take on this 30 day challenge thing?
BB: I wanted adventure! I had recently moved home from college and saw this as a fun and productive challenge.
JS: Fair enough. What are some of hardest parts about doing this?
BB: The hardest part was committing to the challenge. I started my blog to keep me honest; writing that first blog post was really tough, because I knew I’d have to follow through.
Some individual habits have been pretty difficult to stick with. Some of the harder ones were waking up at 7am, meditating every morning, writing 1000 words per day, becoming a vegan pescatarian, and getting a phone number every day from someone I could date.
JS: Yeah those habits sound like they would be hard for anyone to take on, much less simultaneously. Would you recommend that people try this? Why or why not?
BB: It depends on your goal. My goal is to cultivate a mindset of constant improvement, and I think my challenge is a worthwhile exercise toward that end. If I wanted to change my lifestyle in a short amount of time, my one-habit-per-day challenge might be overkill. Instead, I’d focus on acquiring a fixed set of habits.
My focus is on developing my drive to improve, rather than on acquiring the habits themselves. My lifestyle has gotten better as a result of my new daily routines, but those benefits are incidental to my primary goal of developing a mindset of constant improvement. I don’t care much about the individual habits or how they affect my life; they’re more like exercises than ends in themselves.
This challenge would have been much easier had I stuck to easy habits that didn’t take up a lot of time. Some of my easier habits include tracking my sleep, wearing sunscreen, and taking a fish oil supplement. Replicating my experiment with easier habits like those would be more attainable for people with tight schedules.
JS: That’s interesting that you say it’s not about the the habit itself or even the habit making your life better. Why is developing a mindset of continuous improvement important to you?
BB: It’s tons of fun to always be leaning just beyond my edge. Constantly stepping out of my comfort zone is a great adventure. For me, constant improvement is the process of leading a fulfilling life.
However, it’s easy to lose sight of how rewarding personal growth is; it can be tempting to stagnate when you’re comfortable. This challenge will develop my drive to improve and desensitize me to the requisite growing pains.
Focusing on growth is important because there’s everything to gain: good habits, relationships, money, etc… All of those things can also be lost, however, and probably will be at some point. With a growth-oriented mindset, such setbacks aren’t as important, because you’re attracting those things into your life regularly. Also, with a mindset of constant improvement, it doesn’t really matter how you’re doing at any moment. Tomorrow, your life will be a little bit better.
I actually think everyone has a natural inclination to improve themselves; I’m just working mine like a muscle.
JS: Last question. Can you share some tips with our readers on developing new habits?
BB: I’m going to do a big write-up on that subject after my challenge officially ends (in one week!), but one thing I’ve learned is that I’m more likely to follow habits that have well-defined triggers. A trigger is an event, environment, or time of day that is associated with a given habit.
For example, getting out of bed in the morning triggers my meditation habit: I strongly associate waking up with meditating, so I no longer have to remind myself to meditate every morning. Another habit with a good trigger is repeating a person’s name twice after meeting them (which helps me remember their name). The trigger in that case is the introduction. Soon, all introductions will trigger my name-repeating habit unconsciously. My habit of doing vocal exercises in the car also has a good trigger- getting in the car.
Habits without triggers are harder to follow, especially if you’re starting a lot of habits at once. I sometimes forget about my habit of using Twitter every day, because there’s no event, time of day, or environment that I strongly associate with that habit yet.
Lots of habits don’t have natural triggers, but it’s easy to make artificial ones. I like to do that by scheduling my habits relative to each other, so that the completion of one habit triggers another. There are other ways to create artificial triggers too- for example, walking through a doorway could trigger the habit of correcting your posture. Stuff like that may seem silly, but it works!
Well that’s all the space we have here. I hope you found the interview valuable! You should DEFINITELY check out Bevan’s website at http://lifeismywife.com
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