Commitment Contracts: Motivation Made Easy

Summary: Have a project that just never gets done? Use a strongly enforced commitment contract to keep motivated (Tweet This)

On one of my favorite blogs, I recently read the following quote:

commitment-contract-referee

Get a Referee to Enforce the Commitment Contract

"If I read this post in December 2014 and it is not done – then future Evan – you owe The Wife $200+ Shoes" - My Journey to Millions

The author, Evan, had written a set of goals for the year. Like most goals set at the beginning of the year he has varying levels of success with them.

Do you think Evan completed this goal? Of course he did. (Hopefully his wife wasn't counting on the shoes.)

If you read the tips in my article last week, SMART Goals: Goal Setting Made Easy, I mentioned the concept of making a commitment contract with yourself to achieve your goal.

The idea is that you make a deal that if you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. In that case, you are denying yourself of a reward.

However, it can work with the threat of doing something that you really don't want to do. Maybe you pledge that you'll donate money to the political party that opposes your views. Or if you are a Red Sox fan, you threaten to buy a Yankees hat and put the picture of you in it all over Instagram. The idea is to pick something that hurts a bit...

Make Your Commitment Contract Accountable

Ray Romano's character on Men of a Certain Age makes what he calls "mind bets." He'll bet himself that if he doesn't accomplish his goal (usually related to his performance in his golf game), he'll go without television or something else he was looking forward to. Making a mind bet has its problems. Do you have the discipline to follow through with it? His character occasionally found loopholes in his bets. A commitment contract where the commitment can be broken and the contract isn't binding may not be very effective.

If mind bets aren't every good, what's better? How about a website - StickK.com. StickK (yes there is an extra "K" in there) was created by a pair of Yale professors. The idea is that you pick a set a goal and sign a legally binding contract to send money to other people or organizations if you don't reach it.

One common trick is to donate money towards an organization that you don't believe in. That way you'll work extra hard to keep your money out of their hands. You also want assign a referee. According to a Wikipedia citation of Stickk, "... users who put money on the line and have a referee tend to do best. 78% of these users achieve their goals, as compared to only 35% who put no money down." (The source is premium content available to Boston Globe subscribers).

Another website looking to capitalize on the concept of a commitment contract is Healthy Wage. The idea here is very similar to StickK, but it's focused entirely on those looking to lose weight. Healthy Wage it is more strict with its requirements, which makes it tougher (well nearly impossible) to cheat. Unlike StickK where you can avoid the referee, Healthy Wage users are required to have their physician call in the results of their weigh-ins.

What can you take away from this? A commitment contract is powerful motivation, but it is only as good as the enforcement you create. Have you set up a commitment contract? If not, what are you waiting for? Let me know in the comments.

Further Reading:

Photo Credit: Pure Costumes

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