Every day people make decisions to change something important in their lives. They decide to lose weight, quit smoking, spend more time with their families or one of the many other things that we all know we should do. And yet the number of people who follow through on these decisions is a tiny percentage. At the same time those same people who fail at these personal goals would not regularly fail to show up to work or break a lunch date with a friend and they certainly wouldn’t simply dismiss a written contract.
The way we treat these commitments is important because many it has been found that if we treat ourselves a bit more like we would treat other people, and require a written commitment contract for our goals we are far more likely to follow through. In fact simply by writing down a goal you make it more likely to be followed through with, signing it increases the odds even more and if you take it very seriously and have a witness or two sign it as well then the odds are much larger that you will go through with it.
There are a number of psychological reasons for this. The first of these is that anyone in modern society has been taught from a very young age that you sign things to make them legal and doing so simply makes it feel far more real. The second is that if you have someone else witness it then it is going to be far more embarrassing when they see that you have broken that promise to yourself.
Even this will often fail though, and so to make this even more useful is to use the other reason most of us show up to our job on time every day, money. Adding financial stakes to a goal is a great way to help ensure that you will follow through. Write into your contract with yourself some type of financial punishment, reward, or both and you will be far more likely to follow through. In order to make this most effective give the money to someone else, but at the very least write it down.
The fact that we follow through with our commitments with others while failing to follow through on our commitments to ourselves proves there is considerable room for improvement. One of the best ways to do this is to write out and sign a commitment contract and even use financial stakes because any commitment contract make the entire process feel more real and adding stakes to the process makes it even more powerful.