Though our ideal self-images tend to project what we wish we were (in mine I look like David Beckham, talk like John Cleese), the reality is often at least slightly more painful. As a result, many of us are on a mission to pursue our better selves as we devise and harbor umpteen (often vague) person goals, like actually going to the dentist or finally finishing an Ironman. Now, thanks to the rise (and affordability) of smarter tools, apps and devices, it’s easier than ever to track our progress, which has in turn given new life to the Quantified Self movement.
But people are busy, and it can be a Herculean struggle to shed those 10 pounds or eat more of those damn brussel sprouts. There are a number of startups trying to help people stay motivated with different approaches to incentivization, be they monetary rewards for meeting health goals or peer pressure. Lift, a startup backed by Obvious Corp, officially launched its iPhone app today wants to do it better. Through a simplicity-focused mobile experience, the startup is on a mission to make it easy (and painless) for people to reach their personal goals — by providing positive support and eliminating willpower as a factor in achieving those goals.
Lift first revealed its long-developing plans in a blog post in June: To give us a simple way to achieve any goal. How? By creating “fun, optimized, self-reinforcing paths for every aspiration,” and by turning chores into positive experiences. The first step, says Lift Co-founder Tony Stubblebine, is to make positive support loops available to everyone, by pairing Quantified Self’s data-tracking obsession with positive support.
Rather than seeing progress toward our goals as the product of a few big “Eureka” moments, Lift is of the mind that we are best suited by moving more incrementally towards our goals, breaking our goals down into tiny habits that are so achievable we can’t help but reach them (and gain momentum).
But the thing about startups, apps, or tools that are proponents of this “habit design” — they don’t have control of our environment. Stubblebine and team believe the best way to quiet the chaos and reach our goals is by developing mindfulness and the ability to pay attention, which means that, in essence, Lift is a habit tracking tool. (Another recipe for success endorsed by Lift is a “no TechCrunch before lunch” policy, which is apparently meant to help people focus on their work. However, let the record show, that we are strongly opposed to this idea. You need your brain food, people.)
To do this, the startup is trying to move beyond simple “gamification of your life” or any game mechanics, instead choosing to focus on simple, effective feedback loops as its main form of incentivizing people to reach those goals. Thus, Lift is sticking to two main loops, visualized progress and community support from those with similar aspirations.
In order to differentiate from the many tracking apps already out there, Lift is focused on simplicity and consistency. The app is really that. It’s simple, straightforward, and you won’t find any badges or leaderboards.
The app allows users to create “Habits” (or join those already existing) and clicking a big old button if they achieve their goal to get that feeling of accomplishment — or dole out props to others for hitting their milestones. All information in the app is displayed publicly, and users can elaborate on their goals if it’s not clear based on title, and as the app tracks your progress, it starts to populate its graphs (or personal frequency charts) with your data, showing how consistent you’ve been in meeting your mini-goals.
And because people need extra motivation or boosts of encouragement, Lift connects users with friends and with people trying to build the same habits, the goal being to create a portable, mobile support community.
Lift has been in development for almost a year, and though it initially went big and tested out gamification options, in the end, Stubblebine tells us, people were interested in simplicity. The app today is pared down almost to an extreme, no gloss, and no elaborate design getting in the way. “Real life progress is more motivating than a game,” the company said in its blog post today.
The co-founders said that, so far, this simplicity has led to encouragingly high retention rates, with more than 50 percent of its beta users checking in multiple times over the course of a month. The team has been using the app itself, and as you’ll see below, co-founder Jon Crosby has already racked up 400 days of “inbox zero,” which is enough to make anyone jealous and reason enough to give the app a try.
Going forward, the team is focusing on boosting social features, but doing so carefully and methodically to stay consistent with its existing minimalist design. Stubblebine says that an Android app is on their radar, but that the team wants to perfect its first app before moving on.