Not Making Progress? Raise The Stakes
If you were sufficiently motivated, you could become a multi-millionaire. So could I.
So why aren’t either of us rich? The small, intermediate steps involved in getting there are so far removed from the grand prize, that they need to stand up on their own merit to be motivating.
The visit to the gym needs to stand on its own – its connection to a future where I am super healthy and super sexy is too weak.
Last week, you were introduced to mental contrasting, a technique which helps motivation flow backwards, from the ultimate reward to the mundane crap along the way. Unfortunately, it’s only partially effective.
What to do?
Raise the stakes.
Think of one sub-goal that you’ve been putting off for a while. It could be going to the gym, writing a blog post, going to the dentist – anything.
Now imagine that you’ve made a bet with an all-knowing, all-powerful, impartial observer – someone who is omniscient, omnipotent, and incorruptible. If you don’t complete that sub-goal you’ve been putting off within the next week, this impartial observer will burn your entire life savings – all the money you have in the bank, your house, your car – anything, anywhere of value will burn.
What do you think? Would that motivate you?
It would motivate me.
Of course, setting up a situation like that is a bad idea. Talk about stress. And what if something unexpected happened and you failed?
But that’s the basic idea. Raise the stakes.
I’ve found two effective methods for doing so – social accountability, and commitment contracts.
I’d been putting off creating my first for-profit product for months. Then I made a public declaration that I’d have a sale-ready version within a week.
What I’d been putting off for almost a year I got done in five days. Social accountability worked.
I’ve never seen a supportive accountability partnership reduce motivation. Usually I see the opposite – rapid progress replacing what use to be slow stagnation.
We are social creatures. The reason culture is so powerful – the reason it can transform a baby of almost any ethnic origin, any color, any gender, almost any intelligence and almost any personality into a functional citizen and success is because of just how much we care about what other people think about us.
If we didn’t, we’d go off and follow our primal desires – we’d become hobos, sex addicts, and druggies. But we don’t, because we’ve internalized the values of our culture.
You care what other people think about you. So pretending otherwise would be ignoring a potentially large source of motivation. Tell someone that you want to do something – and do it, you’ll receive their approval. Don’t do it, and you’ll look bad. It’s a double whammy of motivation – we want to appear consistent with our word.
So get an accountability partner. Ask a friend or family member you trust to check in with you a few times a month. It’s best to have someone who needs accountability themselves – that way you can help each other, rather than having a nagging partner who’ll just grate on your nerves.
When you meet, discuss progress. If there’s been no progress, discuss roadblocks and potential countermeasures. Ask for suggestions. Discuss your intentions for the upcoming days or weeks ahead of time – that way you’re forming a concrete goal which you have to complete in order to appear consistent.
I’ve been able to perform herculean acts of effort due to accountability. I’ve seen the same happen for other people. If you care what other people think, you’ll be able to do so as well.
A life coach once told me that the most valuable service she provides is accountability. You can spend hundreds of dollars getting accountability from a coach, or get it for free from a friend or family member. It may take you some time to find a partnership that works. But it’ll be worth it!
Seriously! Don’t just read this and think, “oh that’s a good idea.”
Do it! Get accountable! If that’s still not enough, raise the stakes one more time.
Right now, the part of you that is logical is in control. Naturally, you assume that in the future, that part of you will also be in control. But that’s not how the brain works – the part of you that wants to eat healthy gets shut out the moment your brain sniffs desert; the part of you that wants to work on your business gets shut out the moment you get home from work tired and mentally depleted.
That’s where commitment contracts come in.
Despite having no intrinsic value, money is one of the most motivating forces in the world. So if you want to raise the stakes, put your money on the line.
Tell a friend or family member what your goal is, and then tell them what you’re putting on the line. This is just like having an accountability partner, except this time there’s money on the line. You’ll want an impartial observer – someone who’ll ask you for proof of completion and won’t buy any of your excuses.
I use StickK.com. Give it your credit card information, and it’ll take your money if your referee says you didn’t complete your goal. Even better, if you want, if you fail to complete your goal StickK will donate your money to an anti-charity, an organization whose cause you actively reject and oppose. I use that option.
Talk about stakes! Not only will failure cause me to lose money, a cause I identify as evil will be getting it instead!
The higher the stakes the better – the more you’ll care, and paradoxically, the less likely you’ll lose money. I routinely create contracts worth hundreds of dollars.
You can bet they motivate me!
If you’re not willing to put money on the line, maybe this goal isn’t as important to you as you thought it was.
Can you think of someone who’d be willing to help keep you accountable? If so, reach out to them. Do you think it’ll be enough? If not, create a commitment contract.
- Latham 1974 – 1 day goal setting workshop given to 20 tree loggers increased productivity over the following 3 months, valued at a quarter-million dollars.
- Cambell 1976 – Chess players given a hard goal were more likely to successfully complete higher-level chess problems.
- Ivancevish 1976 – Sales personal given training in goal setting sold more.
- Becker 1978 – Two groups of people given goals on conserving energy. Those given the easy goal did no different, while those given the hard goal cut household energy expenditure by 14% over the duration of the study.
- Latham 1978 – Typists given hard goals increased their performance.
- Latham 1982 – 39 truck drivers were assigned goals. Over the following four months, their performance increased, being valued at $2.7 million dollars.
- Reber 1990 – Factory workers walked through a goal setting workshop and provided feedback increased safety compliance from around 50% to almost 100%.
- Rothman 2005 – Smokers helped in setting quit goals were almost twice as likely to have abstained after a quit attempt. This held true even after 18 months.
- Seo 2009 – Students walked through the goal setting process were less likely to procrastinate.
Read Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation: A 35-Year Odyssey for more.
A goal is a dream with a deadline.
All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.
Failures do what is tension relieving, while winners do what is goal achieving.
Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now.
Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.
If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.
In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.
The person with a fixed goal, a clear picture of his desire, or an ideal always before him, causes it, through repetition, to be buried deeply in his subconscious mind and is thus enabled, thanks to its generative and sustaining power, to realize his goal.
–Claude M. Bristol
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Failure is not reaching your goal, but in having no goal to reach.
Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.
David Joseph Schwartz
The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.
The higher goal a person pursues, the quicker his ability develops, and the more beneficial he will become to the society. I believe for sure that this is also a truth.
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.
If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things — you don’t have enough goals.
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.
The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.
The only limitations one has, are the ones they place on themselves.
Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.
Pain makes me grow. Growing is what I want. Therefore, for me pain is pleasure.
One man has enthusiasm for 30 minutes, another for 30 days, but it is the man who has it for 30 years who makes a success of his life.
–Edward B. Butler
If we each get on a treadmill right now, one of two things is going to happen… either you’re going to get off first or I am going to die. Period.
A year from now you will wish you had started today.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
–Neale Donald Walsch
Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.
Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.
Just do it.
If you don’t do what’s best for your body, you’re the one who comes up on the short end.
If you want to look young and thin, hang around old fat people.
You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today and we don’t know where the hell she is.
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, and then work hard toward that goal, we never lose, somehow, we win out.
I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.
Lazy men are soon poor; hard workers get rich. A wise youth makes hay while the sun shines, but what a shame to see a lad who sleeps away his hour of opportunity.
–The Living Bible
An average person with average talent, ambition and education, can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our society, if that person has clear, focused goals.
The man says, ‘If I had a fortune, I’d take good care of it. But I only have a paycheck and I don’t know where it all goes.’ Wouldn’t you love to have him running your company?
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
A year from now you will wish you had started today.
All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous and unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.
Wealth depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both.
Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility, and commitment.
The art is not in making money, but in keeping it.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as getting.
When I was young I thuoght that money was the most important thing in life; now that I’m old I know it is.
It is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake.
For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, and insist upon it.
– Elizabeth Gilbert
It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.
– L.M. Montgomery
Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.
Tell the negativity committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up.?
A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can’t get very far until you change it.
Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design into the present.
Life is not about making others happy. Life is about sharing your happiness with others.
If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, you do have a pretty big problem.
Someone else is happy with far less than what you have.
Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems.
Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.
–James M. Barrie
I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.
Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Happiness is not a feeling, it is a choice.
Return to top.
That’s it for this series on goal setting! All the posts, in order:
1. The World’s Best (free) Guide to Goal Setting
2. Now, Not Later
3. Difficult, Not Easy
4. The Myth of Inspiration
5. Performance or Mastery?
6. Approach or Avoidance?
7. Raise The Stakes
I hope it helped!