The power of guilt and shame.

Last week, for my birthday, Wendy got me a Nike+ FuelBand. If you don’t know what that is, here is what the Nike+ site has to say about it:

Nike+ FuelBand tracks your activity through a sport-tested accelerometer. Then translates every move into NikeFuel. Nike+ FuelBand tracks running, walking, dancing, basketball – and dozens of everyday actions. It also syncs up with a motivational web and mobile experience. So put it on and get moving

And it looks like this:

NIke Plus FuelBand

Basically it’s a fancy pedometer. “NikeFuel points” are a proprietary system Nike created to allow you to compare your performance across activities and with other people. So if I’m a runner and you’re a rower, we can compete over who is more active. Woo hoo, right? But that’s not the important part.

What it really does is guilt and shame you into being more active. Every day you have a goal to reach, 2,000 or more NikeFuel points. You can check your progress throughout the day and see how close you are to achieving your goal. And that’s where the guilt/shame comes in.

Today was a low energy day for me. I sat in a 4 hour workshop, then drove to the airport, then sat at the airport, and then on a plane. I didn’t even hit my ridiculously low goal of 2000 NikeFuel points per day (I’ve only had it a week, I started with the lowest goal to get a baseline before upping it). Ordinarily after a day like this I’d hit the couch. And then I’d go to sleep.

But with the FuelBand, my glowing, flashing reminder that I was a lazy sack of crap today, I forced myself to go to the gym this evening and make sure I met my goal (I wasn’t that far off, from walking around today, etc). I even took the stairs to and from the gym, and the laundry room (several times), which I don’t normally do. This wasn’t even public shaming, it was just my own sense of guilt. My own sense that I would be upset with myself if I didn’t hit a totally arbitrary goal.

That’s some powerful shit.

People have been talking about feedback loops for a long time. It’s nothing new. But it sure is powerful. Simply by measuring something you can encourage people to change it. It’s how Weight Watchers works.

The act of measuring is much more powerful than the actual numbers. For instance, one of the first days I had the FuelBand I spent 5 hours in a car and earned 1200+ points. That was almost half my daily goal. There’s no way that riding in a car was half the activity I needed for the day. Additionally, I first started wearing the FuelBand on my right (dominant) hand. But after racking up some impressive amounts of points, I decided that eating, drinking, talking with my hands, and other movements really shouldn’t be counting towards my activity goals. So I switched it to my left hand and I’ve definitely been earning fewer points.

But again, it’s not about the number of points you get it. It’s about setting the appropriate goal and then forcing yourself to beat it.

Will I keep it up? I hope so. We’ll see how easy it is come winter. And how guilty I feel.

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About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, facebooker, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

One Response to The power of guilt and shame.

  1. Pingback: Nike+, It's Like Exercise But For Nerds! - Jessica Sideways.com

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