Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Neat Way to StikK to Your Commitments?

I came across a book that looked interesting this morning: Nudge, a book by a couple of behavioural scientists about how we make choices, and how we can be nudged to make better choices by well-designed "choice architectures". An extract is available here. I've ordered the book and look forward to reading it. The extract, which presents a dozen examples of good nudges, introduced me to Stikk, a website that offers a way to follow through on commitments that we often have trouble, well, sticking to.

The basic idea is that you announce your commitment publicly (through their web site), set a time frame for doing it, and (optionally) make things more interesting by adding a financial incentive, such as a donation to charity or even a cause you strongly oppose, in the event that you do not meet your commitment. I used a similar approach years ago when I wanted to travel to Central & South America after I finished university, but was a little nervous about going. I told all my friends & family I was going, and then had to follow through because I didn't want to lose face.

I think this web site is pretty cool, and I've decided to try it out. I've needed to lose some weight for quite a while. I've had plenty of reasons to do so:
  • to improve my health
  • to look & feel better
  • to improve my climbing
  • (and most recently) to perhaps stop me from snoring (advice from the doctor I met with after the sleep study I had done in March)
and yet I still haven't really done anything about it. So this morning I signed up at, and entered a commitment to lose 20 pounds over 20 weeks. If you want to sign up and become one of my supporters, I'd welcome that. I've chosen to wager $10/week on my commitment. The money will go to the Conservative Party of Canada if I fail (I checked "Charity" on their web form, because they only listed American organizations in their list of "Anti-Charities"). I really do not want to give money to the Tories, so hopefully that will be added incentive.

I hope that when Nudge arrives and I read it, I'll understand better why the spectre of donating money to Stephen Harper's team may be more effective incentive to lose weight than the clear knowledge that doing so is important to my health.

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