Saturday, January 19, 2008

One of the most brilliant concepts I've come across in a while

Are you having trouble fulfilling your goals? Is self-control a major issue for you? Do you get discouraged from your lack of discipline and decide to throw in the towel? Well if you've ever found yourself in this position, just might be the answer to your prayers.

StickK is a website through which you put out a contract on yourself to accomplish a goal. To make sure you aren't lying, you have to file weekly reports to the site and appoint someone you know as your "referee" to hold you accountable. If you want added incentive, you can put money down. Should you fail to reach your goal, StickK will donate your wager to charity. For even more motivation, you can have StickK donate the money to someone you loathe or to a cause you despise. I immediately shuddered at the thought of $1000 of my hard-earned money going to PETA. The details are all here.

I was a bit skeptical at first wondering why a website was necessary to hold people to their contracts. Why is it advantageous to use StickK rather than draw up a private contract with a friend? StickK explains:

"In a word (make that two words): social psychology. Let's say you sign a contract promising to pay a friend a sum of money if you don't achieve your goal. Chances are, if you renege on your commitment contract, your friend won't take your money, or will be soft on you and renegotiate the terms of the contract (after all, aren't friends supposed to be understanding?). Well, and don't take this personally, we're not your friend. So we hold you to the contract!

Also, stickK offers the support network feature, and the community aspects of stickK help you work toward your goal�which is fun and more effective than slugging away in isolation. It is hard to replicate the ability to involve and update lots of people on your progress in real time offline!"

What draws me to StickK is its intuitive appeal; people do things in response to incentives and are MUCH more likely to do things they are contractually bound to do. The fact that the site was founded by three Yale University intellectuals who actively engage in research on the subject makes StickK all the more appealing and credible.

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