The X Effect
While browsing Reddit I came across a quite fascinating community. People gathered under subbredit r/theXeffect share photos of some strange cards full of x's every day, with various sizes and numbers, and also some goals written along with it.
Several examples of photos, which I found on this subbredit:
This strange method, which clearly serves some kind of self-discipline or monitoring of one's activity, intrigued me with its simplicity and universality to such an extent that I decided to go deeper into the subject and try it myself. Although soon it turned out that there is nothing really to get into and the whole technique is very simple.
The X Method
- Choose a habit that you want to develop within yourself or that you want to get rid of. It can't be too challenging, don't demand too much from you!
- Clearly articulate, and preferably write down the reasons why you do so,
- Draw a board with 50 squares (or 49, which comes out of 7 x 7 small squares). It can be done in a notebook, on a piece of paper, on an index card - whatever suits you.
- Each time you complete an activity covered by the card, cross out one square with a thick, bulky X (it feels best when you do it with a fat marker).
- If you miss one day, instead of X you draw a circle that will burn your eyes every time you see it, and the next day you MAKE SURE to put an X this time.
- After finishing the whole card you can enjoy the acquired habit!
And that's... basically it. The "big" psychological trick is to maintain a continuous chain of X, which. When it begins to grow, in a magical way it increases our motivation not to break the chain, not for love nor money! You can modify the method for your own needs, add various elements to it, but the base remains the same.
Many things can be done with completed cards. It's a good reason to boast a bit, share it with loved ones, send someone as a postcard or hang on the wall — this way we provide our brain with a powerful injection of dopamine, the "hormone of pleasure", which in the form of pride and satisfaction seals our habit. It is important to ensure such a dopamine burst to yourself AFTER completing the whole card, not before. Which Olympic athlete would score the same high if he received the medal before the start, huh?
Interested in trying out? Sub-reddit's wiki suggests some ideas for cards. A secular type of mindfulness meditation, exercises, as well as cards for improving your diet or sleep. Being precise in setting your goals is important, so as to limit our tendency to bypass and cheating our goals. For example, you can establish a habit of 10 minutes of meditation, 15 push-ups a day, complete abandonment of sugar or maybe no use of screened equipment an hour before bedtime. There can be more creative concepts like giving someone a sincere compliment every day, or for 5 minutes of conscious gratitude for what you have.
The X Efficiency
This method is not miraculous. It will not lift you out of bed in a marvellous way and will not do for you what you are planning. It is a kind of aid that increases motivation, but it is also a physical proof that for 50 days you've been doing (or not doing!) something you purposely planned to do (...or not to). So it is a kind of document, a real proof of work done which you can look at and get back to.
On the X effect subbredit people share their experiences with the X effect. Some of them are genuinely spectacular. Someone's goal was to learn how to create Android apps for an hour a day, and he ended up with his own application in Google Play. Someone else, struggling with bulimia, achieved a record result in refraining from compulsive vomiting, which amazed his/her therapist. Many people use this method to quit smoking, marijuana or alcohol addiction. Or any other addiction you can think of.
I wouldn't be writing about the X effect if I didn't try it myself. For several months I had been planning to return to regular meditation, but this always turned out to be a failure. When I began to do it every day, after several days there was always a day when for some reason I missed my meditation, and the next day I often did not even remember that I intended to regain this habit. Or I recalled the matter while falling asleep in bed. Even buying a meditation pillow that was not so cheap did not help.
Fortunately, the X effect acted as a small catalyst, that small daily stimulus that worked for me. It didn't happen without effort, tougher moments, and even one slip-up, which you can spot in the sixth week of my card. This one abandoned day did not worry me too much, because then I already felt that daily meditation entered successfully into my ritual of the day. Today I am already completing the second such meditation card, and next week I want to start a completely new one. But that's what I'll boast about when I'll finish it!
Feel encouraged? Try it, it does not cost anything. Surely each of us has at least one small thing to change or improve. If you take on the challenge, don't forget to show off your card in a comment after 50 days!