Twelve Weeks Of Dance Party!

December 14, 2020

Tomorrow will mark twelve weeks that I have done a daily Dance Party! as described in my earlier post.

Three months in seemed like a good milestone to reflect a bit on this still-developing habit—especially now that the initial excitement over starting a new thing has passed—and see how this is working.

The books I have read on habits are Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I am currently in the midst of reading Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood.

Atomic Habits describes four phases of a habit:

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

The core of this new habit was hooking into something already existing within me. If a song comes on that I find danceable, there’s a craving to move along with the music, and so dancing is the response. I usually enjoy myself while dancing, so the activity itself serves as some reward.

So, the craving, response, and even reward phases were already things I’ve had for many years.

Why do I have that craving? I don’t know, and I don’t think it really matters.

The big change here was adding a regularly occurring cue. Dance music turns on very loudly in the house every afternoon. (For the curious, the setup is detailed in my Dance Party! post.)

Why has it taken me so many years to figure this out? I also don’t know, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

As the weeks have passed, the Apple Watch has helped to reinforce the habit. I have also begun to introduce a few variations to the basic theme.

Avoiding Feeling Bad

I’ve had an Apple Watch since the original, but have never really engaged with the fitness rings. But I’m finding that since starting Dance Party, the rings have served as additional motivation for doing a daily workout.

Although I do have that innate impulse of getting up to dance when some music starts playing, it is not an absolutely foolproof response. Over the last twelve weeks there have been a number of days when the music has started playing and I have just not felt like dancing.

At that point, two thoughts have motivated me. The first is the commitment I made to myself to dance to at least one song when the music comes on. The thought ‘Yeah, I can get up and dance a bit for 3 - 5 minutes’ helps me get started.

But the other thought is about that streak of closed rings in the Fitness app.

I know it will bother me to see that missed day when I look at the Fitness history. I know it will bother me again and again every single time I look at that history. And I know it will bother me more than getting up and dancing to 20 minutes of music will bother me right now.

So, for the last twelve weeks, the gamification aspect of the Fitness app has also been reinforcing the habit.

The cue is still the music, the response is still dancing.

But there is an additional reward in seeing that unbroken streak and additional craving to have the streak continue. And a complementary craving to avoid seeing the streak broken, because I know it will bother me not just today, but for a long time to come.

Variations on a Theme

The core of the Daily Dance Party is fairly simple, but over the first twelve weeks, it has started to take on additional variations. The variations are more complex than the original Cue > Craving > Response > Reward idea, but have been very useful in helping me do a daily workout.


The first variation is time. Although the Dance Party cue is automatic, it is also entirely under my control.

If I’m in the midst of something, I can go into the Home app and set a later time for that day.

If I’m in the mood to dance earlier than scheduled, I can just say “Hey Siri, Dance Party!” and get things moving immediately.

Some days I forget what time I had the Dance Party set for and it is a surprise when the music starts.

Some days I am much more proactive setting the time to accommodate whatever else I have going on that day.

Planned Alternate Workout

For most of the past twelve weeks, I have been participating in a weekly Mindful Qigong class that meets via Zoom.

I treat those classes like any other meeting. They are on my calendar with reminders, including reminders eight hours in advance, so I remember early in the day I have that class coming up in the evening.

On those days, I do an abbreviated Dance Party, usually just one song.

During the class, I use a Tai Chi workout on the watch, which is the closest workout type.

I find the Qigong has been an interesting counterpart to the Daily Dance Party. The Qigong is led and structured movement, while the dancing is freeform and self-directed. Yet both include a variety of similar types of movements. It feels like each reinforces the other.

On-The-Fly Alternate Workout

There have been a few days when I’ve been deep in the midst of something—a project, a nap—when the music comes on and I’ve stopped the music instead of getting up to dance.

The music still serves as a cue, but in those cases it is probably my craving to keep the streak going that is stronger than my craving to dance to the music.

In those cases, my reaction is not to dance, but to make a plan to do an alternative workout. Sometimes that plan is just setting the Dance Party to go off again later in the day.

But sometimes the plan is to substitute an outdoor walk as an alternate workout for that day.

I tend to go for a walk at times with few people around, so usually after dark at 8 pm or so. I have a route that is about 1.75 miles through the winding streets of the neighborhood. I’m socially distanced, carefully avoiding any other pedestrians I might encounter and have a mask with me in case nearby contact is unavoidable.

Apple Fitness+

Apple Fitness+ launches today and I am looking forward to trying it. Even if I do an Apple Fitness+ workout, the cue will likely still be the Dance Party music starting. As I imagine it, I can dance through one song as a warmup, and then do a workout.

It will be interesting to see how I respond to structured workout classes, including dance workouts, as opposed to the very free-form Dance Party.

I’m hoping that the variations I have introduced over the past twelve weeks make it easy to introduce Apple Fitness+ workouts into the mix as additional variations.

A Meta Habit?

As I look back over the past twelve weeks of a Daily Dance Party, it has been interesting to think about my own behavior. Most days are very much a habit—the music comes on, I dance around the house for a while.

But some days there is still thought and decision-making going into the workout. Do I feel like dancing today or would I rather go for a walk? What time does should I set this to in order to avoid loud music going off during a Zoom call?

So, one big change I have noticed is spending more time thinking about, planning, and doing daily workouts.

Since a habit is something you do automatically without consciously thinking about it, I haven’t yet wrapped my head around the meta notion of having a habit of thinking about something regularly. But I do seem to be developing a habit of doing just that.

Will this be a lasting habit? Three months is certainly longer-lasting than zero months, but I still can’t guarantee my future behavior.

But the journey is the reward and I appreciate you reading my thoughts and experiences along the way. •