Monday, October 1, 2012

I Badged Myself & Failed

One of the areas in my life that I need to improve on is my level of physical exercise. I used to play on my Wii Fit, long ago, but my long hours working on my Masters of Education final paper in 2010 ate up the time I devoted to exercise and I still struggle to make it part of my routine. My parents bought me a treadmill last Christmas and I walk on it sporadically but I wanted to make it a habit. I decided to try and use a technique many other people swear by to see if it would inspire me to use the treadmill regularly. I "badged" myself. For every day that I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill, I'd give myself a sticker in my agenda. It'd be great to look at my agenda and have a visual reminder of all the success and devotion to a daily physical regime, right? Well, here's my agenda for September.

Just in case you didn't notice, last week was totally blank. I had a Catholic School Advisory Council meeting on Monday, so I skipped Monday. We had to take the chinchillas to the vet on Tuesday, so I didn't bother with Tuesday. The excuses and the blank spots just kept piling up until the week was over and I hadn't climbed on the treadmill at all. I guess I didn't really care that much about having all those cute turtles sprinkling my book. I read on Cracked, a humour website with a lot of insight, that bad habits are particularly hard to break and that it can take two months of doing the preferred behaviour daily before it sinks in and becomes routine. No time off for good conducts, no sir. Willpower is a finite resource and using extrinsic rewards isn't a guarantee that it will continue. I don't mind being on the treadmill once I'm there, but getting me to turn it on and climb on is the hard part.

What does that mean for our students? Ten weeks of daily practice isn't always feasible, because we've got those weekends in between the school days. How can we instill good habits (such as daily reading) if bad habits are so hard to break? Reward badges didn't work for me, and I recall the trials of toilet training my children, which proved to me that rewards didn't necessarily work for my own children either. (I vaguely recall my daughter telling me "Grandma will just buy me what I want anyways.") Intrinsic motivation is a tough thing to develop - any tips, folks?

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