Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stars, Rewards, Habits and Changes

I am sometimes out and want a cup of coffee in the early morning. If I was passing a Starbucks I might stop and get a coffee. Up until last year I was just as likely to stop at a hospital's cafeteria coffee cart as a Starbucks. I was more likely to just make a cup of mud at home. I drank coffee two, maybe three times a week total. It was always decaf and I could easily go the whole week without any coffee.

When my daughter became a fan of the drinks associated with the Starbucks brand I was already firmly entrenched in a sugar free habit so I was not about to join her for a hot caramel marcchiato chocolate espresso double foam drizzle cappuccino whip cream frappuccino. If you don't think that could be a real drink, you don't know Starbucks.

So anyway, last fall Disney added a Starbucks in EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom. I am often in those two parks several times a week. As they built the shops I started looking forward to when each Starbucks would open so I could enjoy a hot coffee with skim milk as a guilt free indulgence. Okay sometimes I used whole milk. Okay sometimes it was half and half.

For my birthday last year I received several Starbucks cards from well meaning people with kind intentions. I learned that I could register the gift card and put a Starbucks app on my phone and use the phone to pay for the coffee. Then I learned that I would get a star for each and every purchase. I would get a Starbucks gold card when I reached 30 stars. From then on I would get a free drink of my choice for every 12 purchases and free refills on coffee and ice coffee and a free drink of my choice on my birthday.

I really didn't care. I don't drink that much coffee. Sure, while I am in the parks I can get a coffee but really, how long would it take to get this Gold Card status? I figured it would take me at least 7 months to earn the 30 stars.

It took five weeks to get thirty stars and I have not stopped .You know how they write your name on the cup at Starbucks? They don't write my name anymore. They call me "Hollywood Blvd" because I have just as many stars. . . .

Addicted to the coffee you ask? Nay, says I. I am addicted to the stars! I like getting things for free. I like that I can go to Starbucks with my husband, each order a drink for $2, pay with my phone app while my husband pays with my gold card and I get two stars for one visit. Then they keep running bonus star specials. This weekend I got 3 stars for every 1 purchase after 2pm (our coffee time on weekends anyway). The stars add up. I have earned more than 12 free drinks. The freebie drinks are never $2 coffees. When I get the freebie it is either a venti-sized dessert drink creation I order for someone else (sugar eating friends or family) and costs at least $6 or $7, or I can use the free purchase for a meal and give it to a homeless person.

When I realized that the stars were giving my brain the same satisfaction as the pleasing tones that come out of a slot machine (to induce people to sit and play longer) - I knew I needed to think about what I was doing.

I had made a habit out of doing someone (going to Starbucks). The act of the purchase gives me the stimulus of a star as a reward and that adds up to the bigger reward of the freebie.

To change the habit I have to find a stimulus and reward that is equally as satisfying or it will not work in the long term.

I found another app that gives me stars. It is called iRewardChart. It is an app for parents to keep track of their children's chores, behaviors, etc using a star/reward system. Each time you award a star there is a pleasing tone and graphic (just like at Starbucks). You program in what activities or behaviors earn stars and YOU choose how many stars to give for each. This solved the issue of a new stimulus to help create a different habit. In addition to others I won't list here, I now earn a star for meditating, two stars for exercising and three stars for skipping Starbucks! Next time they have a three star bonus special I will give myself 6 stars for skipping the 'special.'

The next step was to find a reward that is as satisfying as those freebies. The app suggests having different rewards for various levels. Now here it gets tricky. I was getting freebies from Starbucks. What would be as pleasing as free. Something more decadent. . . . things I really want but hesitate to get for myself. I have the means to put aside the money for these things but in the past two years I haven't been giving myself permission to gift myself. That has changed.

So now I got to shop at Sephora with $50 when I reached 50 stars. I can start seeing a licensed dietitian/nutritionist at 200 stars. I am taking a trip when I reach 750 stars.  I have been at this three weeks and I already have 169 stars. If I lose interest in this and revert back to Starbucks stars over iRewardchart it means I have to find a better reward to go with these stars. I will report back again in a few months to compare my iRewardChart with my Starbucks Stars and may sane behavior win!

I don't suppose any of you have any prizes you want to pass on as rewards to a star-crazy lady?



Unknown said...

I did this when I was losing weight ten years ago. My rewards were a pedicure, a manicure, a massage, new workout clothes, and finally new everyday clothes. I don't care for travel myself, but a trip is a great "big" reward to look forward to. Glad to read you are continuing to do well!

Vickie said...

I sent a link to this post on to Gretchen Rubin who is collecting information on habits right now. You did a good job articulating.

iRewardChart said...

this is such a valuable testimonial of the app we have done! We wrote the app to be able to help parents (just like us) to bring the discipline and order in their children and motivate them. The way you are using was never the intended way - but thanks for being creative about it, and using it in a completely diff way.
Thank you so much!
- iRewardChart
(support at iRewardChart.com, http://iRewardChart.com)

Jane Cartelli said...

iRewardChart.com: I hope I have inspired you to consider tailoring a chart to motivate us grownups who are kids at heart!

Jane Cartelli said...

Vickie: That was nice of you, thank you. Gretchen gave me a nice bump with that post. Thank you for introducing me to her site.