Having trouble making positive changes your life? Habit Judo can probably help.

Habit Judo makes forming healthy and productive new habits ADDICTIVE through the power of variable ratio reinforcement schedules. It turns your natural impulses in your favor to help you improve your life.

How does Habit Judo work?

1. Pick 3 new simple daily habits, one of which must be 'Record your habits'

2. Get a RANDBETWEEN(1,10) points each day for each successful habit

3. Add each day's points to a running point total

4. At point totals that occur about every 3 days, get a small reward

5. At point totals that occur about every 10-12 days, you 'level up'

6. When you level up, you get to add a new habit

7. GO TO #2

Could you explain that a little more?

Habit Judo begins with 3 easy daily habits. They should be little things that you should be doing but aren't, e.g. cleaning kitty litter, flossing, drinking 8 glasses of water, etc. Start easy, so that you build positive momentum for later. You start by keeping track of whether you complete each habit each day. This daily tracking is really important, it's essential to triggering the positive feedback loop that makes the system so powerful. In fact, it's so important that "Record your habits" should always be one of your first three habits (the other two you can choose yourself).

Each day, for each successful habit, you earn a RANDOM number of points between 1 and 10. You can roll at 10-sided die, or use the random number generator built into the sample spreadsheet linked below. This randomness is what produces the variable in the variable ratio. Your points accumulate each day. At certain point thresholds that occur about every 3 days, you get a small self-determined reward (something less than $10). At point thresholds that occur about every 10-12 days, you ‘level up.’ Every time you level up, you get to add a new habit. Habit Judo uses the judo belt system to represent levels. You start as a white belt, and move through the colors yellow, orange, green, blue, and brown on your way up to black belt. To keep you habits present-in-mind, you should symbolize your belt level by something on your person. One easy method is wearing a silicone wristband (think LifeStrong bracelet) of your current belt color. You can get them from Amazon.com here. To make getting started even easier for you, there's an Excel spreadsheet pre-formatted for Habit Judo at the bottom of this page.

Why does Habit Judo work?

Psychologists and trainers have for years known of the power of operant conditioning in changing behavior. Positive reinforcement is a method of operant conditioning that provides positive consequences (rewards) to increase the rate or probability of a behavior. Kid solves a puzzle, kid gets a cookie.

There are different schedules of reinforcement (Kid gets a cookie after each puzzle, after each 5 puzzles, etc.) but the most powerful and addictive type is called a variable ratio schedule. It has both the highest rate of responding and the greatest resistance to extinction. With a variable ratio schedule of positive reinforcement, the number of responses necessary to produce the reward varies from trial to trial (Kid doesn't know how many puzzles he needs to solve to get a cookie, but it could be the NEXT ONE!). Variable ratio schedules are what accounts for the ongoing popularity of slot machines (the next one could be a winner!) and lottery tickets (ditto). In the chart below, the variable ratio schedule is the red line.

Habit Judo pairs variable reward ratios with a leveling system that provides tangible sense of accomplishment, something that has proved very compelling to legions of Farmville and World of Warcraft addicts. This is an example of "gamification", which has been shown to increase participation in activities by taking advantage of human's psychological disposition to engage in games. For another example of this, see Chore Wars. The combination of the two systems of gamification and variable ratio reward schedules creates a very sticky method of learning and keeping new behavioral habits.

Where did Habit Judo come from?

Habit Judo grew out of a Metafilter Project, that was a result of this comment. It was an effort by me to find a system that would allow me to successfully take up daily exercise and meditation. Until this system, I found that I couldn't maintain my initial motivation long enough to have a new activity become habituated. I could start new activities, but I couldn't transform them into habits. I've christened this problem "The Motivation-Habituation Gap." The result of this gap was a series of unsuccessful attempts and broken promises that undermined my self-discipline. Habit Judo is the system I designed to bridge the Motivation-Habituation Gap, and it works!

Habit Judo is easy way to make positive changes in your life stick.

Give it a try either by Excel Spreadsheet, (here's a screencast tutorial) or in the Android Marketplace