Saturday, April 30, 2011

Doing the Hard Thing


~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Of Note: Change is all around us. Without constant change and reconfiguration, the universe would cease to BE. Why is it that we humans find change so difficult and often fight it tooth and nail? There are many reasons, of course, but one is the belief that happiness is the end result of action. When we find happiness or its equivalent, we want to stay in that spot. Or unable to find happiness, a malaise sets in where we smolder, neither alive nor dead. What to do? This cycle of happiness vs. unhappiness can be broken by committing to make one change a day if small or one large change over a period of time if large. Pretty soon one is caught up in making change rather than the unrealistic expectation of happiness. For those who have trouble making change, has one answer based on the use of a pre-commitment device, a "technique that people use to bind themselves to their preferred choices." The pre-commitment device of this site is real money. For example, if a Democrat wanted to lose 50 pounds, she might commit $1000 to a Republican cause if the promise is not kept. Two behavioral economists came up with this scheme based on well-known principles that people don't always do what they say they are going to do and incentives get people to do things. It's the whole carrot and stick routine. As a matter of fact, one of the economists, Ian Ayres, wrote a book called precisely that--Carrots and Sticks. The idea is the promotion of healthier lifestyle by creating commitment contracts that binds a person to achieve a personal goal. So far $7,118,733 have been put on the line by almost 80,000 people bent on making real change. Some of these people are very serious. The Website creators put half their yearly salaries toward the contract--and one had to make good on the deal to the tune of $15,000. That gives new meaning to Eleanor Roosevelt's words, doesn't it?

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