Every once in a while, I master a regular gym routine. It works for a few months, but then I let school, work and funny YouTube videos get in the way. Soon, my silky gym shirt and mesh shorts find their way onto the bottom shelf of my closet, sitting neatly folded until the next glimpse of false hope arrives.
Frankly, I’m tired of it; it’s a complete waste. (And I really miss watching Food Network with my Hulk friends.) This time, I’m doing things differently: Next Monday I will visit my profile on StickK and report on whether or not I have satisfied my commitment of working out at least three times during the week. If all is well, my brother (who I have appointed “referee”) will confirm that I’m a man of my word and I’ll be off the hook.
And if I don’t meet my goal? Well, that’s where it gets interesting.
You see, for a while, I had incentivized myself with rewards—fancy meals, “earning” a night out—anything to get me off the couch. But SticK takes the opposite approach, one that evolved from a study done at NYU’s own Center for Experimental Social Science. It concluded that people work harder to avoid loss than to gain reward; in other words, we hate losing stuff.
Enter Dean Karlan, economics professor at Yale. He knew that people never do what they claim they want to do, but could be convinced with a little incentive. Why not use this fear of loss to help change lives? To make the stakes higher and get people to work even harder to meet their goals, Dean and his team introduced the “anti-charity,” a person or organization that opposes your values. Are you pro-life? Pick a pro-choice charity. Not a fan of gun violence? Threaten yourself with a donation to the National Rifle Association. Send the money to your parents, your boss, whoever! Their concept will hit you where it hurts: your morals, your bank account, and if you configure the site to ridicule you on social media, your friends.
In my case, if I fail to meet my weekly goal, I’ve authorized StickK to charge my credit card and donate the funds to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, an anti-gay organization that deserves my money about as much as the Taliban does.
I’m also using Foursquare to keep track of how often I’m exercising, which my referee can use to back up my reports. Even on its own, Foursquare is a great way to stay commited. Every time you check-in, it’s like having a little support party cheering for you. And when you don’t check-in? Your friends notice. They’ll think you’re a cheating scumbag.
Keep in mind that StickK isn’t just for health commitments. Why not use it during finals to make sure you study on time, and appoint your roommate as referee? Or as a way to track your grades, punishing yourself for a C? The opportunities are endless.
Just be careful what you promise.