Do you occasionally sleep past your designated wake-up time?
Maybe 255 volts will help your feet find the floor.
That’s the thinking behind Pavlok, the fitness band that (according to its website) helps you “wear your willpower” and “form good habits.” Or, as others have suggested, Pavlok is like a Fitbit that hates you.
For around $175 you can shock yourself into a better life. After you program your desired daily patterns into Pavlok, the wristband will watch over you like a hawk. If you skip your workout or take shortcuts at the gym, brace yourself for a jolt of electricity. If you set the wake-up function on your device to Jumping Jack mode, the alarm will keep going off until you start doing jumping jacks.
But Pavlok is just getting started.
Maybe pain isn’t your prime motivator. How about shame? Pavlok will actually post a message to your Facebook page that you’ve been cheating on your personal fitness goals. There’s no truth to the rumor that Pavlok secretly went to seminary and majored in preaching.
Pavlok is based on aversion science – a fancy way of saying that people will be motivated to stop doing whatever brings punishment. It’s also an example of classic respondent conditioning.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
The Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov conducted a famous series of experiments with dogs. He sounded a bell while they ate. The dogs quickly associated the ringing with dinner. Afterwards Pavlov noticed that when he rang the bell the dogs immediately began salivating.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could train ourselves, through some form of behavioral conditioning, to do the things we’ve always wanted to do and to stop doing the things we’d love to leave behind?
It’s been tried many times before.
During several periods of church history, uber-committed followers of Jesus have devoted themselves to radical programs of self-discipline – rigorous spiritual “workouts” that were designed to eliminate any possibility of yielding to the temptations of the world.
In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard chronicles earnest Christians who became famous for “eating no cooked food for seven years, exposing the naked body to poisonous flies while sleeping in a marsh for six months, not lying down to sleep for forty or fifty years… proudly keeping a record of the years since one had seen a woman, carrying heavy weights wherever one went, or living in iron bracelets and chains, explicitly vying with one another for the championship in austerities.”
In the 4th century A.D. in what is now Syria, a young man named Simon the Stylite scaled a 50-foot column. The top of the column was three feet across. Simon built a rail so he wouldn’t roll off during his sleep. Friends supplied him with food that he hoisted to the top of the column by means of a rope. And there he stayed, without interruption – through rain, sun, wind, and snow – for 37 years. All in an attempt to remind himself to think of nothing but God.
What have we learned from these “spiritual athletes”? Self-punishing physical rigors never deliver what they advertise.
What do people crave more than anything in the world? Love, joy, and peace. Such miracles, however, don’t become ours if and when we figure out how to kick our bodies into gear.
Love, joy, and peace, in fact, are the first three of the nine “fruits of the Spirit” that Paul identifies in Galatians 5:22-23. These qualities grow within the hearts of those who steadily pursue a kinder, gentler pattern of spiritual surrender.
We can clench our fists and shout No to the habits that afflict us. Or we can open our hands and whisper Yes to the Holy Spirit who humbly awaits permission to fill us.
No matter what we choose to wear on our wrists, the real action happens every time we choose to give him our hearts.