Starting a new behavior and dropping the bad habits can be tough, as millions of people can testify every year. In the hope of achieving our goals, we turn to technology, apps, new exercise equipment, new gyms, books and blogs, and eventually burnout. Basically, we try everything, and still mostly fall off the wagon.
The potential upside to mastering the art of bad habit-kicking is huge: weight loss, better eating, increased energy, more confidence, more money. It’s no wonder we continue trying to succeed. And no wonder that scientists have spent years trying to solve this problem.
Thankfully there may be a straightforward solution. James Clear, productivity expert and author of “Atomic Habits”, says the answer is to punish ourselves immediately for bad habits, rather than waiting for future benefits.
For example, if you want to stick to your exercise plan, sign a “habit contract” with a good friend, partner and gym instructor to say that you will go to the gym 3 times a week for 45 minutes and drink 2 litres of water every day. If you don’t do those things, you will be required to pay your gym instructor £50 immediately and wash up every day for a week.
This is similar to Stikk, a website that helps people achieve their goals by signing Commitment Contracts with millions of others. Users state a goal they want to achieve (such as lose a stone in a month), are assigned a peer supporter who holds them accountable, and can also put down some money (e.g. £100). They then state what will happen to the money if they don’t stick to their commitments (e.g. it will go to someone they don’t like).
According to Stikk, people are five times more likely to stick to their goals if they follow a loss-aversion method. With an 87% success rate for financial goals and 73% for weight loss goals, it’s clearly a method which works.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Both ideas are based on the latest research on behavior and psychology. Placing your money or reputation on the line raises the cost of failing. This increases your motivation to stick to your goals.
iF you’re looking for a science-based system to help you kick your bad habits, why not try one of these methods. You’ve got nothing to lose (as long as you stick to your commitment!)
I would say that based on my experience this works well as long as the person you really have a good relationship with the person you do the deal with.
the countdown thing is also good for things you don't want to be doing. Although staying out of the biscuit tin can require counting up to 100!
the cynic would say that you DO pay someone everytime you don't go to the gym under a contract - the gym, who get your money without having to do anything or wear out any of their facilities. Thank goodness for the arrangement on this website, although as ever just buying a pass doesn't make anyone fit.
I've always found the best way is to count 54321 backwards very quickly and then just DO the thing you're avoiding without thinking. That way you don't give yourself time to talk yourself out of it.
This sounds similar to an agreement I made with my friend to buy her coffee everytime I made an excuse to not join her on a run. Not much to lose, I realise, but the same principle. As it happens, I went on every run!
Now that's a really interesting theory and I think it could work for me, though I don;t think many people would want to hold you to the consequence if you didn't stick to your plan.
Thanks, interesting idea paying someone if you don't go to the gym..might have to give that one a try!