StickKing to Commitments

A long time believer in the self-interested nature of mankind, I appreciate a person, company or organization which is able to align motivations in productive ways. Want to raise money for your team? Give people something for it. Throw a fund raising party so they can meet new people. Put the donating company's logo on your website so that they can increase visibility. Party A needs to assign its goals with Party B.

By this logic, self-improvement goals should be easy because there is no other party to cooperate with. There's only your goal to lose weight, your goal to exercise more, your goal to spend more time with your children, etc. The benefits to you in all cases are clear. So why do so many people struggle with keeping such commitments?

In many ways, your short-term self (ST) and your long-term self (LT) are different parties. LT would love to look better in a swimsuit for summer by shedding 20 pounds, but ST would really like that slice of cheesecake. The long duration of the goal, the more LT and ST clash.

StickK helps to align ST and LT's goals by imposing simple penalties when ST starts to stray. Here's how it works (for, say, weight loss)

  1. You enter in your current weight, height and target weight
  2. You give a time frame in weeks, with a maximum weight loss of two pounds per week.
  3. You offer a monetary penalty of, say, $100 per week and either a charity or anti-charity recipient.
    Charities: American Red Cross, CARE, Doctors without Borders, Feed the Children, Freedom from Hunger, Multiple Sclerosis Society, UNICEF, and United Way.

    Anti-Charities: NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, Americans United for Life, Freedom to Marry, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, NRA Foundation, Nature Conservancy, and The National Center for Public Policy Research.

  4. You choose to either have the goal "on your honor" or to have friends referee you.
  5. Each week, you (or your referees) log in to track your progress. If you're on track, great! Otherwise, well, there goes your $100.

Economists reason that there is a cost to everything. StickK is provide a very real short-term cost.

Just one gripe: selecting an anti-charity as a recipient feels a little strange - even unethical - to me. Sure, donating to a group that I strongly oppose, such as a Pro-Life organization, might offer additional motivation, but helping a Pro-Life organization is directly hurting a Pro-Choice organization. It doesn't feel right to me to have my failures unnecessarily impact the pro-choice movement or another group that I support.