The Painful Path to Behavior Change
I love experimenting with new behavior-change approaches. It’s one thing to understand behavior-change in theory – it’s another thing to live it.
Two of the oldest, and simplest, ideas in behavior change are:
- People dislike pain (and will do stuff to avoid it)
- People enjoy pleasure (and will do stuff to experience it)
From these simple statements, we can come up with a variety of different behavior-change solutions – but they all boil down to this:
- If you want someone to perform a behavior, increase the pleasure the behavior will provide or increase the pain that not doing the behavior will provide.
Incentive/reward systems increase the pleasure one receives when they perform a behavior. Punishment systems cause people pain when the desired behavior does not occur.
Reward systems and punishment systems work by changing motivation. This is why reward and punishment systems are so hard to design – we’re all motivated by different things. A man with ten million dollars might not be motivated by $100 – for him, saving 15 minutes might be the ultimate motivator. It’s hard to predict to what degree a reward, or punishment, will increase motivation.
Anyways, I’m interested in creating a punishment-based behavior-change system for myself using Stickk.com
Stickk allows you to choose a goal/behavior and choose a cost for not regularly performing the desired behavior. The default option is to donate a certain amount of money to an anti-charity (that is, a charity that you don’t like) each time you fail to follow through with your desired behavior/goal.
Donating to an anti-charity increases the pain of not performing a behavior as much as possible. Not only are you losing cash, but it’s being given to a cause you despise (or at least dislike).
I’m starting an 8-week behavior-change program with Stickk today. I want to force myself to become more social (since I generally sit in front of a computer for 8-10 hours each day). So, each day that I don’t meet a new person, I’m going to pay $20 to the RNC.
I’m going to define meeting a new person as: having a conversation with someone I don’t know well to the point where names are exchanged.
If there’s something in your life you want to change, go sign up for Stickk and let me know about your goal via email email@example.com or in the comments.