Since the New Year I’ve been examining what I find to be an endlessly interesting subject: Why is it that we don’t stick with New Year’s resolutions and other plans to change, grow, learn, etc. ? Check out various posts here and here if you like.
Following the lead of behavioral economist Dan Ariely in his new book Predictably Irrational, I opined the other day that we need more immediate negative consequences for not doing what we’ve resolved to do, be it eat less, run more, learn Chinese, or call an elderly neighbor once a week to see how she’s doing.
I recalled offering, half in jest, to serve as a negative-consequence dispenser for a buddy several years back. He would send me $500 or so, and if he didn’t stick to his bold prescriptions for change, I would send $100 a week of his money to politicians, interest groups or celebrities he loathed. That would provide the bitter pill we normally don’t get when we slide off a diet or chuck our new exercise regimen.
Well, lo and behold, someone has taken that great idea and made a business out of it. It’s called StickK, and basically, they provide incentives for people to stick with their promises. (Their motto: “Put out a contract on yourself.”)
They’ll help you notify significant people in your life about your resolution, which re-introduces the almost vanished notion of shame as a motivator: You claimed you were going to do this, you told friends and family you would, and if you don’t, they’ll know and be disappointed. StickK can also help you with painful motivators like sending donations to charities or groups you oppose.
Sounds perverse, yes, but if the “pure reason” approach to change worked, we wouldn’t have millions of people stuck in the chains of bad habits.
Again, such measures as Ariely and StickK suggest are for people who really are serious about making some kind of change in their lives. Most people who talk about change, whether personal or societal, are not serious about it; they’re mouthing the words because they know they should care about this personal or political problem. If you check back with them a month after they’ve announced this or that New Deal, you’ll find they’ve done nothing.
You can get all the details about StickK here.