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An app that turns your goals into habits

An app that turns your goals into habits

Posting in Technology

Lift, the newest self-help app, seeks to go beyond performance tracking to take your goals and make them into real habits.

We all set goals. My to-do list, for instance, includes my typical daily routine as well as a few big picture aspirations: “draw more,” “eat more protein,” “read more books,” “floss,” and the like. In today's world, you can also use technological cheerleaders to feel better about achieving said goal. For instance, I hear decathlete Ashton Eaton’s voice in my Nike Run app congratulating me whenever I pass a new distance record.

But while crossing items off a list paper or logging miles on your phone are satisfying, they don’t necessarily go as far as creating new habits and eliminating old ones, even if that’s the intention. Lift, a new iPhone application, seeks to do just that by becoming your personal holistic motivational tool. The app has you identify the positive habits you’d like to make part of your regimen-- either by searching through a database of popular ones or entering in your own-- and helps you track your progress.

“My whole life, I’ve been interested in how people become good -- and then great -- at something,” co-founder Tony Stubblebine said.

The company of the same name is still in its infancy, having launched just a few months ago. (It just announced a second round of funding.) To co-founders Stubblebine and Jon Crosby, however, it’s more than just a baby-- it’s the result of years of trying on different hats and working on different projects and finally landing naturally on something they can see themselves doing for the rest of their lives.

“I worked from month to month on things that launched and didn’t matter,” Stubblebine said. “I hate that feeling of waiting to find out what your destiny is, especially if you think you’re doomed.”

Lift is Stubblebine’s second company and fourth startup for which he’s worked, but it’s the most intentional job move he’s made yet. With his earlier startups, he became familiar with the intimidating process of actually building, marketing and selling an idea. With Lift, it was all about choosing a concept that he could pursue for the rest of his life, and surrounding himself with smart, fun people while doing so.

“A lot of people are just opportunistic, and say this would be useful to someone, why don’t we do this?” Stubblebine said. “But you have to work so hard and long on it that this time I wanted to work with a lot of smart people around me. That would be more fun, and I think we’d be more successful.”

The premise of Lift was a natural fit to its founders. Crosby and his wife were trying to lose weight, writing with a marker on their closet mirror the date and their weight each morning, so each day it was visible, showing the direction they were going. They had created their own system of reaching a goal with social support and measurement. Stubblebine has an athletic background and had built a version of Lift for himself that helped him be more successful. He thought he could do it for a lot of people.

Stubblebine and Crosby have known each other for years; their first jobs out of college were together. They also maintained a close relationship with the company's initial investors -- The Obvious Corporation, a company formed by a co-founder of Twitter to fund and help new and interesting projects -- after Stubblebine worked with them in 2005 and 2006 while he was an engineering director at Odeo.

"What we think is that we could package up a portable support community that helps people reach those goals through positive reinforcement and insight,” Stubblebine said to SmartPlanet.

Indeed, the app's progress mirrors the trajectory of launching a startup: the app tries to get some momentum going for its users, to turn their goals into habits so that every day you get to feel achievement. The more they add up, the more achievement to be had. The company is run in a similar fashion -- an incremental build-up of many small iterations, each to be validated. Lift is continuously submitting out new versions of the app to Apple, and as soon as they are approved another is submitted.

“Experiments fail,” Stubblebine said, “but we get enough successes coming through but it feels like we are building. We want to have momentum at all times.”

A key part of Lift is the “insight” part, making the app more than just tracking app, but a pocket-sized self-help book when needed. The company just finished an experiment with optimization guru Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Body and The 4 Hour Chef, where they ran a couple hundred people through his program to test it out and see if it was good advice they could pass on to their users. They found that 84 percent of people lost weight.

“I’ve always been suspicious of gurus who give a lot of advice without a third-party verifying it,” Stubblebine said. “The reason this experiment is so exciting to us is that we know we can do that 1,000 times over. We’re going to look at every diet, talk to academics and to do more research.”

So what’s next? Like any new company, Lift will be making the necessary nips, tucks and changes to keep their idea growing. More specifically, Stubblebine wants to see Lift working more broadly for its users. Right now it’s just an iPhone app, but they are looking to expand to other devices to make it a more universal product.

The next big push for Lift, of course, begins New Years Day, a time when people around the world find themselves refreshed and ready for change, and perhaps needing some extra help achieving their resolutions.

“I’m learning a lot,” Stubblebine said, “and no matter what, we’re already making an impact on people’s lives.”

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure