Can an app help you be a better person?

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Between scales that tweet your weight loss progress and apps that track your running times, it’s clear there’s a desire for social devices and apps that can encourage, motivate and produce results for people trying to get physically healthier. But can an app designed to turn you into a better, more adventurous or accomplished person produce real results too?

Everest dreams appThat’s what the founder of an iOS app called Everest is trying to prove. Everest is a goals app, and as the name implies, it’s aimed at people trying to conquer something. You sign up, list life goals (short- and long-term) that you want to accomplish, and publicize them within the app’s network so that fellow travelers with similar goals or who have accomplished those things can offer encouragement through comments and congratulations. The person with the goal can also post updates or pictures of how they’re making progress on the goal.

Everest has plenty of influential believers on board already: Peter Thiel, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia and X Prize founder Peter Diamandis contributed to the $2 million in angel funding he has received since summer 2012.

The app is sort of tangential to the “quantified self” movement, which has to do with a person’s physical state — tracking sleep patterns, heart rate, exercise, food intake and more. Everest is more about the actualized self: having a vision of the person you want to be and using encouragement, motivation and help from people like you to unlock your potential.

Keeping track of your dreams on your iPhone

Everest founder Francis Pedraza believes his app can produce results because it gives people two things: a record of their goal and encouragement along the way. “Most people lack organization. Less than 10 percent of people actually write down things they want to do,” he said to me in a recent interview. “They need process and steps to take — they need a tool.”

But that’s not all: “There’s a lack of support,” he said. “They don’t share what they want to do or the progress, so they can’t get encouragement, accountability or learn from people who’ve done similar things.” The types of goals or “dreams” entered into Everest vary a lot. It covers a lot of physical health goals, but also things like, “be more organized,” “write a new song,” “save money,” “apply for a business license,” “code every day,” “perform 20 random acts of kindness,” and more.

Challenges EverestThere is plenty of research that supports the effectiveness of social groups helping each other, online and off, John Grohol, psychologist and founder of PsychCentral.com told me.

“When you have people who hold your feet to the fire in terms of helping you reach your goals by keeping in touch with you, by texting you, by saying hello in the app … when you’re in a group of people like that, it tends to help everyone in that group achieve their goals more quickly and makes it more likely they’ll meet their goals.”

There have been 1 million dreams input into Everest since it launched in February. But how much are people sticking with them over time? There’s a lot of activity of entering dreams, but it’s hard to tell just from flipping through the app how much follow-through there is, and Pedraza did not elaborate.

Aspirations matter

Whether or not people actually follow up on their goals in Everest — that is, whether people are writing new songs, learning new instruments, starting a business or practicing their hobbies more regularly — will matter eventually, especially if he wants to build a lasting business around constantly engaged users. But I think Everest taps into the same vein as apps like Snapguide and Pinterest: it’s aspirational. The idea of identifying your specific goals or dreams is the initial appeal.

These kinds of services, Pinterest especially, are full of non-professionals or amateurs who want to promote their own creative skills and help other non-professionals achieve something — from being the kind of mom that makes only organic, locally sourced baby food, to brining and roasting a chicken like a pro, or recreating a wedding that looks like it belongs in a glossy magazine.

My Everest goal, for example, of traveling to one new country per year doesn’t necessarily require instruction — I’m quite familiar with booking travel. As a goal, it is self-improvement: it’s really about me literally expanding my horizons. But it seems perfect as an Everest kind of goal because all I really need is inspiration from the places that others travel.

Everest is combining the prevalence of our devices with drawing inspiration and purpose from social networks and the examples of others. It’s also very well-designed. With all of these qualities, Everest has a shot at signing up a lot of people. But getting them to follow through and stay engaged is another mountain for them to climb.

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