By Virginia Heffernan
I have a lot of new habits in 2013, but no new habit is more firmly entrenched than thinking about my new habits. I tick off boxes: spent time outside, meditated, stretched, deleted emails. Done done done and done. Then I give other people props for the same practices. You surfed? You did Deepak Chopra's meditation challenge? You completed sun salutations seven mornings in a row and then installed some email filters? Props to all of you!
This box-checking and witness-bearing is time-consuming. But I'm into it. All because a new app called Lift, designed to promote new habits and enmesh you in a community of Ben Franklins who love a well-checked box, has found its way to my iPhone.
Instead of texting, these days--all right I still text like a fiend, but maybe I'm briefer--I have started to savor Lift's lists of "trending" habits, "popular" habits and "easiest" habits. Since one habit I'm always meaning to get into is "be more like other people," I'm heavily influenced by the good-habit aspirations of my fellows.
That's how I ended up thinking about my carriage for the first time (never cared but "good posture" is a hot habit), and nothing beats the weird pleasure of getting Internet "props"--like Facebook likes--for standing up straighter.
I did put "eat less bread" down as a habit, but mostly Lift is about positive habits, not Lenten self-denial. It's also about simple stuff that can become reflexive, like "drink water," "sleep by midnight" and "eat breakfast." Predictably, the most popular coveted habit is "exercise," with more than 50,000 participants. (Kettlebells, kettlebells, blah blah yoga.)
But "read" is not far behind. That one draws a lot of comments, like Caitlin M's: "Finished The Hobbit! Amazing story." And C.C's: "Charles Bukowski's Post Office almost made this 45 min bus ride tolerable. Almost."
I like someone called Robert Brown on the reading list. He's reading Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise," along with something called "21 Ways Rich People Think Differently From Average People."
Other surprise books that register among the readers on Lift: Jonathan Safran Foer's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," and "The Decameron" by the brilliant 14th-century Chaucer progenitor Giovanni Boccaccio. (Who had little time for good habits unless they were "cuckold more.")
Right now I find habit acquisition a wonderfully optimistic thing to do. Shoring up fragments against this ruin, as Fitzgerald might have seen it. In "set priorities for the day," I see everything from "tan" to "sort out tea" to "be awesome."
In "Read Bible," a trending habit, you can find diligently data-entried excerpts from Numbers, Romans, Psalms, Deuteronomy. All on the little Lift app.
I find myself returning to Lift several times during the day. The earnest will to self-improvement—to tan and think like rich people and be awesome—sweetens human affairs in immeasurable ways. Seeing it so baldly on display is heartening, and also kind of funny.
I'm not sure how instructive it is, however. Just today I decided to get some more frugality habits into my Lift mix. The words of one reformed spendthrift caught my eye. On "save money," Anne N seems pleased she did a "Good job anally."
Hm. No judgments here. I just hope it was economical.
Appitude: Can using Lift on your phone make you a better person?Tue, Feb 5, 2013 1:36 PM EST
By Virginia Heffernan
- Air force chief: Malaysia jet may have turned back1 hour 8 minutes ago
- Malaysia investigators probe possible airport security lapse2 hours 41 minutes ago
- PM: Won't budge '1 centimeter' from Ukrainian land1 hour 4 minutes ago
- Suicide car bomb, attacks kill at least 42 in Iraq2 hours 18 minutes ago
- Pre-St. Pat's bash erupts into chaos; 73 arrested1 hour 12 minutes ago
- Boeing reports wing cracks on 787 Dreamliners in production
By Alwyn Scott and Tim Hepher NEW YORK (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Friday that "hairline cracks" had been discovered in the wings of about 40 787 Dreamliners that are in production, marking another setback for the company's newest jet. The cracks have not been found on planes that are in use by airlines and therefore posed no safety risk, Boeing said, adding the problem also will not alter Boeing's plans to deliver 110 787s this year. However, Boeing said the cracks, which also occurred on the larger 787-9 model currently undergoing flight tests, could delay by a few weeks the date when airlines can take delivery of their new planes. The disclosure raised questions about repair costs and a possible minor increase in the weight of the plane, but did not seem to spell major trouble for Boeing, industry experts said.
- AT&T cuts wireless data charges for individual customers
(Reuters) - AT&T Inc said on Saturday it is cutting wireless data charges for individual customers who have no annual service contract, as the No. 2 U.S. mobile operator attempts to better compete with rival T-Mobile US Inc. Customers having one smartphone with no annual service contract will now pay $65 per month instead of $80 for a plan that includes 2GB LTE wireless data, unlimited talk and text messaging, unlimited international messaging and 50 GB cloud storage. The latest plan follows price cuts AT&T announced last month for families and customers who share large data plans, as well as its offer of a $200 credit to customers who switch to its network. AT&T has been fiercely competing with smaller rival T-Mobile U.S. after T-Mobile spent several quarters directly marketing to AT&T customers.
- U.S. job growth offers upbeat sign for weather-beaten economy
By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. job growth accelerated sharply in February despite the icy weather that gripped much of the nation, easing fears of an abrupt economic slowdown and keeping the Federal Reserve on track to continue reducing its monetary stimulus. Employers added 175,000 jobs to their payrolls last month after creating 129,000 new positions in January, the Labor Department said on Friday. The unemployment rate, however, rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low of 6.6 percent as Americans flooded into the labor market to search for work. "It reinforces the case for the economy being stronger than it's looked for the last couple of months," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services in Boston.
- Exclusive: Pimco's Gross declares El-Erian is 'trying to undermine me'
Bill Gross, the co-founder and co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co, has accused departing CEO Mohamed El-Erian of seeking to "undermine" him by talking to The Wall Street Journal about deepening tensions between the two executives who have been jointly running the world's largest bond house. Gross told Reuters that he had "evidence" that El-Erian "wrote" a February 24 article in the Journal, which described the worsening relationship between the two men as Pimco's performance deteriorated last year, including a showdown in which they squared off against each other in front of more than a dozen colleagues at the firm's Newport Beach, California headquarters. Gross, who oversaw more than $1.91 trillion in assets as of the end of last year and who is known on Wall Street as the 'Bond King', said in a phone call to Reuters last Friday: "I'm so sick of Mohamed trying to undermine me." When asked if Reuters could see the evidence about El-Erian and the allegation he was involved in the article, Gross said: "You're on his side.
- Shell says Ho-Ho pipeline shut after leak in Texas
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell on Friday said construction crew members punctured its Houston-to-Houma (Ho-Ho) pipeline near Port Neches, Texas, on Thursday afternoon, releasing 364 barrels of crude oil. The company said it shut the pipeline after the leak. Emergency crews and first responders were deployed to the scene and are using absorbent booms to contain the oil, Shell said. ...
- Canada, South Korea close to free trade deal: Canadian PM
Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Sunday he hopes to finalize a free trade agreement with South Korea during a trip there this week. Sources familiar with the negotiations had said last week that the two sides were very close to signing a long-delayed free trade deal after years of talks. "We will be hoping to finalize a Canada-Korea free trade agreement," he said. Canada, seeking to diversify its exports away from the United States, has long targeted the rapidly expanding economies of Asia.
- Soft touch FX regulation falls under harsh glare
By Jamie McGeever and Carmel Crimmins LONDON (Reuters) - In July 2006, during lunch at an upmarket restaurant overlooking the sprawling Smithfield meat market in the City of London, Bank of England officials and senior bank dealers discussed evidence of potential manipulation of the foreign exchange market. It was two years before the issue was discussed again, according to minutes from the meetings, released after a Reuters freedom of information request, and seven years before the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Britain's financial regulator, kicked off a global investigation and banks started to suspend or layoff traders. The FCA probe focuses on whether traders used advance knowledge of customer orders to try and manipulate benchmark foreign exchange rates for their own gain, and is a blow to the "hands off" approach to regulating the world's largest financial market. The fact that Bank of England officials knew about possible manipulation and seemingly did not act, raises questions for one of the world's most powerful central banks.
- Expansion of PayPal Startup Program Shows Landscape Heating Up
Through a program to aid entrepreneurs, PayPal can identify the latest hit before its a household name.