On Wednesday 28th of June my Apple Watch move streak came to an end. This story begins in early December 2016 when my beautiful girlfriend Jess bought me an Apple Watch. A hugely generous gift to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I had just finished university, was going to be celebrating my birthday in a few days time and I had finished my course of prednisone. Throughout the year I had been ‘umming and arghing’ about getting an Apple Watch. For those who know me well this will have come as no surprise. I love design and technology. The Apple Watch is a beautiful product, but one I had deemed a luxury. So when I peeled back the wrapping to reveal my very own Apple Watch I was ecstatic.
My favourite feature of the Apple Watch is its activity rings. Each day you are challenged to close all three rings; standing for at least one minute during twelve hours of the day, exercising for 30 minutes and hitting a target active calorie burn. During my first month I was hit and miss. But by January I was starting to close all three rings consistently. The motivation to do so was heavily aided by the trophies you get for hitting different milestones (such as perfect weeks and months). These small incentives have significantly modified my activity behaviour for the better — a testament of how technology can be positively used to help and remind us to live healthier lives.
On the 10th of January my activity move streak began. For 169 consecutive days I closed all three of my activity rings (except for two days that I missed my exercise ring), equivalent to approximately 5.5 months. So what happened to the streak, what caused its demise? A case of gastro that left me bed bound for three days. Initially, I was disappointed, and Jess and I even contemplated having her complete my rings for me. But I am glad we decided against that, because reflecting in hindsight I am ecstatic at what I was able to achieve! I set myself a challenge initially of getting a perfect move week, I blew that out of the park with 24 consecutive perfect move weeks.
I am a firm believer of setting yourself goals. But the catch is that you need to increment your goal and you need to be able to measure it. Too often people set themselves audacious goals, which is a great thing, but they fail to break that goal down into achievable sub-goals.
When I switched from a double degree to a single degree at university after my first semester I set myself the goal of achieving a perfect grade-point average. This was my big audacious goal — 20 straight HD’s. I didn’t know whether it was even possible to score straight HD’s throughout an entire degree. Now if I had of focussed blindly on achieving a GPA of 7 and didn’t break this down into smaller sub-goals I wouldn’t have ever achieved my goal. Like the activity updates I get on my Apple Watch throughout the day, I needed feedback to tell me whether I was heading in the right direction. This came in the form of my assignment results. By monitoring my results I could determine which subjects needed my attention and priority.
A note worthy example — in my second year I took an elective unit in 3D animation. This was a completely new field for me and I hadn’t been able to make the tutorials and lectures due to work, I was really starting to fall behind. Consequently, in my first assessment I missed the mark and scored somewhere around 70%. This left me in a really tight position — I needed to score above 95% in my next two assignments to achieve a HD. Rather than giving up or complaining about my mark I organised weekly catch ups with my lecturers. I asked how I could improve and what resources might be available to me to get better. I had late night and early morning Skype sessions with a tutorial teacher the university had employed who was living in the US but was being under utilised by the class. I focussed intensely on this unit, whilst also ensuring I maintained my grades in my other subjects that I was more confident in.
At the end of the semester I achieved a HD, the product of a lot of hard work and the guidance of my mentors who channeled and focussed my attention in the right direction. This highlights an important point. In my experience, change comes about when you:
- identify the problem (a lower than expected grade),
- take responsibility for the situation (organising more opportunities to grow rather than complaining),
- prioritise the change (shifting attention), and
- receive outside support (the guidance of my teachers).
A few months ago I received an award from the Design Institute of Australia for Graduate of the Year for Visual Communication Design in NSW/ACT and was a finalist in the Australasian competition. You can read more about this in an article by the University and a local Canberra blog Lost four Words. The reason I bring this up is to encourage you to pursue your audacious goals. Break them down, monitor your progress and seek outside support.
Performer Eddie Canton wisely said “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success”. Success comes from doing ordinary things well, consistently.