Willpower is dead.
Yeah, you heard me right. It is cold stone dead. At least for me.
Its demise came absolutely unexpected. There were no tell tales. No gloomy music heralding this event.
Because it wasn’t a process. It was an instant. It was enough to read one of the articles of Maneesh Sethi. It gave me a blueprint to refurbish my learning routine and tripled my productivity.
But before I get to that let’s take a look at two kinds of motivation.
Two Kinds Of Motivation
If you are driven by extrinsic motivation you do things mainly to receive a reward. For example, you might decide to get a new job because it pays better.
If you are driven by intrinsic (internal) motivation, your need to do different thing stems from the meaningfulness of the work you do. You don’t need any reward or compensation.
I have always believed that it is enough to feel this internal fire in order to achieve big things.
But I was wrong.
I am quite sure that we are not motivated by good things. At least not as much as we would like to believe it.
What makes me say it?
Well, most things in life are pretty simple.
- If you want to lose weight, you work out and keep a diet.
- If you want to learn a language, you learn every day.
- If you want to get a better job, you acquire additional skills or improve the ones you already have.
The final result is always crystal clear – you become fitter, more intelligent or successful. And you really DO want these things, don’t you?
Then why is it so damn hard to start acting?
Because the potential benefits are deferred in time. The day-to-day results you experience when you do any of the activities above are barely noticeable. So if good things don’t motivate us effectively, what does?
The fear of loss.
How Betting Tripled My Productivity
The logic behind this strategy is really simple. You will do much more to avoid loss than to receive a reward. Given that the loss is almost immediate, it’s not that strange.
One look at the real-life castaways, or desperate mothers who lift cars, can tell us how the fear of loss (of life in this case) can motivate us.
But you don’t even have to look that far. Let’s say that you want to learn 60 new German words today. You can either try to do it on your own or bet with me.
In the second case, you know that if you lose, you have to give me your favorite watch. Do you think you would lose? No way! These are just 60 words!
The simplest form of this strategy looks as follows:
- Choose a GOAL you want to achieve
- BET with someone that you’ll achieve it in x hours or days
- Choose your PUNISHMENT in case you fail to deliver
Of course, there are some things you should take into account if you choose to use this strategy (and you should!). But first…
Here are just some random results I got thanks to betting within last 18 months.
- I created this very website (with over 2k subscribers) you’re reading right now
- I have been interviewed a couple of times (which is a weird feeling)
- I have created a Beta-version of a vocabulary learning course
- I have written a book proposal
- I have learned Czech to a B1 level within a month
- I have managed to double my income
- I have lost over 10 kilos of fat and gained and then bulked up
- I have read about 30% more than I do normally
- I have increased the number of words I learn by 20%
And probably many other things I have already forgotten about.
Alrighty then. Let’s take a look at what a good bet consists of.
5 Elements Of A Good Bet
- 1) Do you know what you want to achieve?
What problem keeps you up at night? What bothers you?
Maybe you don’t learn regularly. Maybe you procrastinate too much. Maybe you are too fat.
Identify the most important things you would like to change and set a goal.
- 2) Is your goal achievable?
You can bet about anything you want but you have to be sure that the goal is within your reach.
It shouldn’t be too easy. Such goals will rob you of your satisfaction. But they shouldn’t be too hard either. Such goals may nip your enthusiasm in the bud. If you want to bet with your wife that you are going to run 5 km today, analyze how much free time you have on your hands today.
3 hours? Great, then it is certainly doable.
When was the last you actually ran more than 1 km? During your studies?
Then I have bad news for you… I hope you see what I am getting at. Always make sure that you are able to deliver.
- 3) Can you prove that you did it?
This is the key issue. You probably like to think about yourself as a guy who is squeaky clean when it comes to morality.
I know, I do too.
But trust me when I tell you that all morality goes to hell when the deadline of your bet is breathing down your neck with a musty stench of failure.
The questions you should consider are:
- What are you measuring?
- How will you measure it?
- How will you deliver a proof?
Most of the time it’s perfectly possible to determine the answers.
If you decide to run 5 km, you can use an app to track your distance .
If you decide to learn 100 words today, you can send screen-shots of your Anki interface.
The list goes on and on.
Sometimes it’s worth altering your bet a little bit in order to make it measurable.
If you want to bet that you won’t eat sweets all day, it will be nearly impossible to prove it. However, if you bet that you will lose 1kg until the end of the week, there will be no doubt whether you failed or not.
- 4) Is your punishment motivating enough?
Listen, if you bet with your buddy that you will give him 10$ if you lose a bet and you know that you earn 30$/h then who are you fooling? When the push comes to shove, you will probably shrug your shoulders and pay.
The thing is that you should be REALLY afraid of losing. The perspective of the potential loss should infuse you with fear. Not the paralyzing kind of course. But the motivating one.
Bet 70$. Or lend your car to a cousin you hate.
Come up with something which really makes you uncomfortable.
- 5) Can you be a sure that the other person will execute?
As a rule, I don’t bet with people who are mushy softies. I don’t want to hear, “It’s ok, I don’t need your money because I know you tried’.
I want somebody who will take my money and laugh in my face while doing so! “Thanks for the easy cash sucker!”.
I have a small group of 3-4 people with who I bet and that’s more than enough.
You can actually convince your friend(s) to bet with you as well. This way you will be motivating each other!
And now time for the bitter truth. Probably 17 out of every 20 people who will read this article won’t do anything (and I am being an optimist here).
Because of excuses.
Wading Through The Excuses
Who doesn’t love some good ol’ excuses from time to time?
I find it fascinating when people approach me and complain that they have so many plans but they can’t get anything done. When I suggest this strategy most of them freeze and mumble one of the following reasons why they can’t do it:
- Yeah, I know it works, I will definitely try it in the future (code word for “I will never try it”)
- It won’t work because money is not that important to me (then choose a different kind of punishment!)
- I don’t want to be forced, I prefer to rely on my willpower (how has it worked for you so far?)
What’s going on?! Don’t they want to change?
They do. OR at least they think they do.
But the thing is that most of them are simply afraid. Because once you place your bet, there is no turning back. You either deliver or pay up.
If you decide to use this method to boost your motivation, I’d love to hear from you and talk about your results!
Oh, one more thing. Do you know why I have written this article? Yep, bet (thank you John!).
Good luck with your projects!