“I’m gonna use a password to change my life”

1 minute read

I had to type this statement several times a day. Each time my computer would lock. Each time my screensaver with her photo would appear. Each time I would come back from eating lunch alone.
— Mauricio Estrella (2014) How a password changed my life

Beautiful story. But even more a great application of a lot of different principles:

  1. Nudges
  2. Behavioural Triggers
  3. Compassion

Let me expand a little bit on the reason why I value this article so much, and it’s so emblematic. He didn’t just choose password with a meaning, he choose passwords that were crafted to be pragmatic, to be triggers.

In each of the passwords he mentions, there’s a word that is the same word he will think about or use in the very moment the change needs to happen:

  • her, triggers “forgive her”
  • smoking, triggers “quit”
  • save, triggers “for trip”
  • sleep, triggers “before 12”
  • her, triggers “ask for date”

And so on. Now this isn’t an exact science, but in general, it’s a good thing: each sentence was repeated and contained a trigger.

That’s probably also part of the reason why “eat” didn’t work, it wasn’t an action “on spot”, it was “two times a day”, which is both positive (eat, well, do eat) and projected (this time, no, the next time). This is pure speculation, but I’d try with something like “eat half portion”. It’s a more contextual trigger.

In the end, it’s a beautiful story. Worth reading.

Thanks to Filipe Varela for the link.