Monday, February 04, 2008

Commitment Devices

How do you keep a resolution, a commitment to yourself? Something that you want to do like lose weight or exercise more but you know that the gluttony and sloth may get the better of you. Do you have any tricks to force yourself to keep the commitment?

According to Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt at Freakonomics, economists call a trick like this a commitment device — a means with which to lock yourself into a course of action that you might not otherwise choose but that produces a desired result.

They give the example of a Los Angeles businesswoman who tries to watch her weight. So she bought two lifelike plastic models of human body fat from a medical-supply company, a one-pound blob and a five-pound blob, and put them on display in her kitchen.

Yuk. Be grateful I didn't post a picture of this lady's fat blobs!

Another suggestion from Levitt
for those who want to lose weight is to write a check for a substantial amount of money to the American Nazi Party, seal it up in a stamped envelope, and vow to drop it in the mail if you break your diet.

Wow. That's pretty serious too.

If you don't want to go to the extremes of writing a check to an organization whose goals you abhor, then you could go to and sign a contract with them to give a certain amount to some wholesome charity if you fail to meet your commitment to yourself.

Hmmm. So what device am I going to use to make myself stick to the commitment to sail my Laser 100 days this year come hell or high water? Well, basically by telling the world (a.k.a. as the three regular readers of this blog) about it I am exposing myself to huge personal embarrassment and humiliation if I fail.

To make sure you can keep track of whether I am backsliding I am posting the number of days sailed year-to-date in the sidebar over there >>>>>>>

And I have created a post 100 Days at Sea which will be a list of links to posts about each of the 100 days of Lasering (so I don't lose count).

So what about you? Do you have any neat tricks to force yourself to keep commitments like this?


EVK4 said...

I really like your counter over there. I'm thinking about adding one that states number of hours and number of days, not for a goal but just to keep track.

Unknown said...

3 readers?! If evk4 is 1 and I am 2 then who is #3?!

I too have problems committing to committments. May be I should just be committed :p

Anonymous said...

i make it 3

Anonymous said...

I guess this makes 4! How many readers do you really get these days? I remember a post a while ago with some statistics.

To your question. When setting and committing to a goal, it is critical to take time and honestly evaluate your motives. If the reason you set a goal is good and truly important, you will make it a priority in life and will be more likely to succeed. For me that really dictates how likely I am to achieve the goal.

To keep on track and remember the importance, my most common "device" is finding a buddy who is willing to set the same (or similar goal). There is no better support. Plus that makes it more enjoyable.

For your goal, remember to pace yourself and keep it FUN. The last thing you want is burnout that makes you stop sailing.

Tillerman said...

The number of visitors per day is averaging just over 250, not counting days when Scuttlebutt or Sailing Anarchy gives me a link and drives the stats crazy.

Then there are about 80 people who subscribe to the blog via email and 90 with RSS feeds who may or may not be included in the 250.

Tillerman said...

Good advice on the commitment stuff derek.

My motives for setting my 100 day goal are that I really do want to improve my Laser sailing and, more importantly, I do enjoy every day I spend on the water. Just need a little extra push to get me out of the door on days when the weather is less than perfect, and this may do it. Also provides an extra incentive to book sailing trips to warmer climes in the winter months.

A secondary reason is that I want to write more about actual sailing on this blog and less utter nonsense. More days on the water = more watery subject matter for the blog too.

As for a buddy, are there any other sailing bloggers out there who want to join the 100 day club? Edward from EVK4 is teetering on the brink of recording his days on his blog but doesn't want to set a goal.

I have thought a lot about pacing. The basic plan is to average 6 or 7 days a month in the 6 colder months of the year, and 10 to 12 days a month from April to September. That should do it and also spread the FUN over the year.

Anonymous said...

Yay, I'm five of 250. Better than being 7 of 9 right?
I put up post it notes around the house and at work with a word or two that reminds me of my goal/commitment.

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