18 months ago we launched YOU-app – a wellbeing application that encourages small changes.

Hundreds of thousands of users and countless micro-failures and successes later we’ve learned 8 valuable lessons.

Read on and you may find an idea applicable to your own life too.

 1 | Us humans are holistic, interconnected beings – so are the solutions that work

Most of us struggle with the same issues – work-life balance, eating right, a positive self-image, the small stresses of everyday life. To fix these challenges we often go for point-solutions: measure your steps, track your weight, meditate daily.

But people are complex, and so are our problems. The solution that works is often surprising – YOU users have improved their relationships with mindfulness, lost weight with self-love, finally got in shape by quitting the gym and sleeping more.

It’s like that game at the amusement park where you pull a string to get a prize – you never know which prize you get when you grab the string, so you may need to try several to get the prize you want.

We started out with point-solutions: Want to lose weight? Eat healthier. Need to get in shape? Walk more. But really, the best answers could be: Love yourself. Do less. Sleep.

The solution may be a surprising one, and you don’t know what works until you’ve tried. To find those solutions, you need to take the next point to heart.

TRY: Can you think of a time in your life when a problem was solved with a surprising solution?

2 | Action!

 Our society often says “Give people better information, and they’ll act differently”. That’s either:

  • a) wrong, or
  • b) our Western world is filled with inactive, stressed individuals who have missed all the talk about healthy living

More knowledge will NOT make the population at large happier and healthier – what we need is more action. What we need are simple solutions that help us make better choices, daily.

The old Chinese proverb had it right: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.”

TRY: What do you KNOW you should do, but you don’t?

When we take action we’ll also inevitably fail. But that doesn’t matter – read on to understand why.


3 | Every step counts – also the failed ones

Many wellbeing services punish inactivity and reward success (“Walk 10,000 steps – get a badge!”), but in personal development there’s no such thing as a meaningless change in behaviour.

Say you’re trying to become a morning person and want to wake up at 6am every day. A few days in a row you do it and feel on top of the world! Then one morning you wake up at 9:30am.

If your goal is perfection you’ll feel miserable.

If your goal is personal development you’ll take a step back and think – “What was different this morning? What did I do differently last night? Did the previous early mornings deprive me of sleep? What can I learn?” Then you go on.

Making continuous progress doesn’t matter as much as doing it mindfully and learning.

TRY: Could you reflect on and celebrate a small setback today?

So since you’re bound to fail, you need something to keep going. Read on.

4 | Variation is key for motivation

We’re often asked “how do you support habit formation in YOU-app?”. Here’s a secret in digital wellbeing you’re not supposed to say:

Habit tracking alone is boring.

Habits are important, don’t get us wrong. And trying to reach those 10,000 steps every day can be really motivating.

BUT: How long will you keep using a service that simply lets you “check in”? When you miss a day and break your streak – it’s a pretty brutal feeling, right? And does the quest for a “30-day streak” make you to pick easy habits you KNOW you’ll nail, not the personal growth challenges you need?

To maintain motivation we need variation. New ideas, insights, thoughts, inspiration – preferably daily.

If you’re not supposed to say that habits are boring, you’re also not supposed to say the next thing.

TRY: How could you approach a habit-to-be in a new way today?

You’re not supposed to say that habits are boring, but you’re also not supposed to say this:

5 | Compete for a boost, not for bliss

Competition is the go-to approach for change. Corporate health programs, workout schemes and team building exercises are often built on competition.

Easy, they say. Not sustainable, we argue.

Here’s the thing – for most people a “leaderboard” is a “loserboard”. And no one, NO ONE wants a “Leaderboard of Life” (just think about what the quest for likes does to people on social media).

Competition does not work for lasting personal growth. At best you can get a momentary boost – but if you wish to keep it up, you’ll need internal motivation.

So use competition in games, sports, and for a boost. In all other contexts – competition will mainly do you harm. So how should we involve other people? Read on.

TRY: Are you using competition as a motivator? Could you replace it with internal motivation?

6 | There’s power in community

Our deep human need to belong, to feel we are not alone, should not be underestimated.

The ‘Longevity Project’ which studied over 1000 people from youth to death concluded:

“The groups you associate with determine the person you become. For people who want improved health, association with healthy people is usually the strongest and most direct path of change.

Most people lack a social context where healthy choices and positive thinking are encouraged.

In YOU-app the community provides that. Seeing other YOU users take action is a powerful motivator, as is seeing someone else across the world go through the same struggles as you.

“I’m not alone” may be the best motivation you can get.

TRY: Is there a group or person who encourages you to make good choices? Could you spend more time with them?

Your potentially best cheerleader, in the end, is you. Here’s why:

7 | Self-compassion – the best kept secret for a happy life

Sadly, too often our self-improvement quests are fuelled by self-hate. We hate our weight, our body, our weaknesses. Every day we tell ourselves things we’d never say to a friend who’s struggling. Not a good starting place, is it?

Instead, develop yourself with self-compassion and love. Eat well because your body deserves it. Exercise because 80-year-old you deserves to walk with a straight back. When you have a setback, simply say “That’s okay” and move on.

Self-compassion is the best kept secret for a happy, fulfilled life. Practice self-compassion and you will not only find a kinder route to personal development, but you’ll notice how changes and better choices will flow more easily. Make love your rocket fuel!

TRY: Feeling behind on something? Tell yourself “It’s okay”.

8 | Small is POWERFUL

This has been at the core of YOU-app from the beginning – micro-actions. But not until years into it do we truly see the power of small actions.

Not only are small steps a more sustainable way to tackle challenges, there’s power in doing ANY small action. Early on, our advisor neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart said “…micro behavior changes can lead to people being able to make bigger changes in their lives”.

Every little step counts, and every action solidifies you as the boss of your own life.

1+1+1+… = A LOT.

Most cultures have sayings that speak to the power of small change:

How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time.

A constant drip of water smoothens the stone.

How did the Catalan chicken cross the street? Poc-a-poc.

If you remember one thing, remember this: Small actions, small changes, small choices are powerful. The sooner you realize the power of small, the happier and more empowered you’ll be.

TRY: What’s a small action you could do today? 

We’ve now been on an 18-month soul-searching journey – as a company, community and personally. In the process we’ve learned who we are:

YOU is about micro-actions. We transform top knowledge into small actions to make personal development simple. And we do it with strong values and a warm heart.