We’ve all been there before. We set a goal for ourselves, whether it’s to save money, lose weight, or quit smoking; but no matter how badly we want to achieve that goal, we just can’t seem to stick to it. That’s because we humans are notoriously bad at sticking to our commitments.
One of the reasons we don’t keep our commitments is because goals are in the future. We cannot feel the discomfort that our future selves will feel if we don’t achieve our goal. This is called “temporal discounting”, the tendency to value immediate rewards more than future ones.
But there are ways to trick our brains into sticking to our commitments and overcome temporal discounting. The trick is bring to the present the future pain. Or make the future pain so big, that when “discounted” is still relevant. These are called “commitment devices.”
They are basically anything that makes it harder for us to back out of our commitments. For example, a common commitment device is to make a public pledge. This could be telling your friends and family about your goal, like “Hey, LinkedIn, I am going to write every day!”. But there are some more extreme cases, where we pledge to do something that would make us cringe if we didn’t follow through.
It’s said that Tom Cruise with his first “Mission: Impossible.” In order to make sure he followed through on his commitment to do all of his own stunts, Cruise made a bet with the film’s producer. If he didn’t do the stunts, he would have to pay the producer $100,000. Another lady pledged to send a $2,000 donation to the Ku Klux Klan if she would not quit smoking in a month. Just the mere thought of having to make that donation was enough to help her stick to her commitment.
While most of us don’t have to make such extreme bets, we can still use commitment devices to our advantage.
So, the next time you’re struggling to stick to a goal, try using a commitment device. It just might be the motivation you need to finally achieve your goal.