What We Risk When We Blame the “Hooky” Product
There’s always a choice. Who is making it?
Yesterday, I celebrated 710 days of daily meditation with the Calm iOS app. Calm was deservedly named App of the Year by Apple. (Congrats Calm team!)
Last night and this morning, the app crashed whenever I tried to launch it. Maybe it partied too much in celebration? 😉
I will admit that, for a moment, I forgot that I could meditate without the app. I wondered “what about my streak?”
And then I remembered the obvious: I don’t need an app to practice meditation.
Getting Hooked on Calm
The team at Calm built an app designed to hook users. In both design and content — the variety of meditations, the collectible and shareable Daily Calm image, the stats page and streak counter — the app encourages users to return daily. These and other features make the app and the practice of meditation “sticky.”
I have tested many apps in this space and Calm is, in my opinion, the best one. But my eyes are wide open to the fact that Calm creates the pretense of fostering mindfulness while building features designed hook us; to be hooked is the opposite of mindful. And it betrays its mission of encouraging disconnection by prompting users to share the daily images and their stats.
This is what it is. I don’t lay blame. Calm is a business based on subscriptions, and the foundation for subscriptions is to get users hooked.
But my experience this morning illuminated the downside of using an app to meditate: when we become hooked on it, its absence can become an excuse not to engage in our practice.
The Product is Not the Practice
As much as I am grateful for Calm’s role in helping me cultivate my practice (it’s not a habit), it would be a mistake for me to give Calm the credit.
I know better.
The only thing my practice requires is me, not an app.
Calm has been a trusted friend on my journey, but it has never put my butt on the cushion. That’s all me. I own that decision every day. App or no app.
The audio guidance is helpful, but my breath provides its own guidance. I love the dose of wisdom, but I’ve got plenty of my own. And I love collecting and sharing the quote images, but I can make my own.
As for the streak, it continues, of course. Whether Calm counts for me or not, I know if I’ve done my practice. The app’s calendar offers a pretty view of my daily accomplishment, current streak total and total time, but I can keep track in any number of ways. I like to know my “metrics,” but there’s a point in developing daily practices where the number loses relevance. It simply becomes something you do.
This is the goal: to integrate a practice of daily meditation and mindfulness.
The Hook is Always Internal
Prior to this 710-day streak, I had tried and failed for years to develop a consistent meditation practice.
In fact, I had used the Calm app on-and-off for a couple of years before I started my current streak. Although the app did not have all of its current “hooky” features back then, it also lacked many of these features when I started my current streak on December 30, 2015.
The app’s features did not hook me into the app or to meditation; I hooked myself. My desire to create a consistent and sustainable daily practice came first. When I was ready to commit, the app’s features facilitated my commitment. But those same features could not hook me before I was willing.
Calm doesn’t have the power to decide whether I sit for meditation any more than Facebook controls whether I open its app.
To give Calm the credit (or lay blame on Facebook, or any other app) is a dangerous mistake. It denies my power over my own choices. Over time, this degrades self-trust and self-esteem.
If I believe that I can only meditate with the guidance of a voice in an app, I lose access to my own inner guidance. And then I don’t trust that inner guidance.
The hook and the trigger are always internal. Always.
How to Calibrate Your Inner GPS
The only way to calibrate your inner GPS is the same way you calibrate a regular GPS device: by activating it in the field. You have to put it to use.
And so I did today.
Instead of using the crashing app as an excuse not to sit for practice, I viewed it as an opportunity to practice following my inner guidance. I set a timer and tuned into my breath, allowing it to guide me. I harvested the wisdom from within. I even made my own image.
When we see that we don’t need the things we thought we needed, that’s when we realize our own capabilities.
You know how to guide yourself. Trust your inner GPS.