Monday, July 8, 2013

Schedules of consequences on the Pacific Crest Trail

 "Every time I moved, it hurt.  I counted my steps to take my mind off the pain, silently ticking the numbers off in my head to one hundred before starting over again.  The blocks of numbers made the walk slightly more bearable, as if I only had to go to the end of each one" (p. 63).  That's a quote from Cheryl Strayed's engrossing, bestselling memoir, Wild, which I recently read.  After personal losses and struggles, Strayed saved up to be able to hike much of the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California through Oregon.  With boots that were too small and feet rubbed raw, her persistence wins readers' hearts.

The strategy in the quote will be familiar if you've read my book:  Added signals that indicate progress can double as extra rewards that help us keep going.  The schedule for these particular signals?  A steady hundred by hundred means a fixed work-based schedule, the same as a "fixed ratio."  Keeping track of progress in other ways ought to have helped too, such as making it to the next bend, then to a particular tree, etc.  Little rewards can make a surprisingly big difference.

Much farther along the trail, out of water during a heat wave and desperate (and still with those painful feet!):
"I counted my steps, working my way to a hundred and starting over again at one.  Each time I completed another set it seemed as if I’d achieved a small thing.  Then a hundred became too optimistic and I went to fifty, then twenty-five, then ten" (p. 193). 

Not to spoil it, but obviously Strayed did live to tell the tale.  And this application from the science of consequences helped.

No comments:

Post a Comment