Realz-World Resoluting —
Making Fondue Out Of Your Beloved ‘Carrot And Stick’

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Making Fondue Out Of Your Beloved ‘Carrot And Stick’
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Making Fondue Out Of Your Beloved 'Carrot And Stick'

Realz-World Resoluting —
Making Fondue Out Of Your Beloved ‘Carrot And Stick’

Making Fondue Out Of Your Beloved ‘Carrot And Stick’ -- why punishment is actually a far more effective motivator than reward (#blogpost #resolutions #goals #reward #achieve #accomplish #goalsetting #punishment #youcandoit #productivity) at we talk goal-setting-follow-through, which tends to work better? Promising yourself an ooey-gooey-sticky-fingered-clog-up-them-arteries reward (mine are always chocolatey, if you couldn’t tell) — or threatening yourself with an ass-smacking?

Imma bet (particularly in light of our modern-day “every-special-snowflake-gets-a-trophy-and-a-pat-on-their-delicate-little-tuchus” societal inclinations) that most folks will choose carrot over stick any day.

But according to science?

Punishment wins out every time.

Recent studies show that we sentient anthropoid peeps are three-times-more-likely to stop a perceived-as-negative behavior (or engage in a seen-as-beneficial habit) when the end result is “loss” rather than “gain.” In rich dummy terms? Facing punishment for failing to do that-goal-thing-you-said-you-would lights a far hotter fire under your ass than remuneration for actually DOING that-goal-thing-you-said-you-would.

Let’s say you’re attempting to hit the gym every day, or open the mail when it comes in (rather than continuing to feed that counter-pile), or stop biting your nails — pay yourself a quarter every time you succeed, and you’re LESS likely to stick with said habit than if you hand 25¢ over every time you screw up.

Sounds totally counter-intuitive, right? Not really.

Humans are biologically-programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain, but our hardwiring is far more risk-averse than ecstasy-seeking. (It makes complete evolutionary sense that fight-or-flight would override mere “desire” pretty much every time — would you not agree that a hungry-lion-charging-straight-toward-you-with-murder-on-his-mind is an inherently stronger motivator than a tasty bunch of bananas?)

The knee-jerk-reaction for us upright-and-walking-erect types is to stay as far-the-hell-away from potential unpleasantry as possible — even if it means forfeiting a whole heap of long-term-good-stuff that’s attached to a nothing-more-than-temporary distress. (Which does make self-improvement a tad difficult.)

Best way to fight these counterproductive homo sapien predilections and trick your psyche into adapting? Inextricably tangle up a failure-to-act with that old-school-monkey-brain-survival-response.

In other words, create some consequences.

So you know those “do-that-again-and-you’re-going-to-be-sorry” punishments you use to bully a child into acting the way you want? They work just as well for grown people trying to swap a bad habit for good.

Deprival of electronic gadgets, a moratorium on tv-watching, no going out with friends, having to run a lap. Hell, even public humiliation (my personal favorite) has its pluses — after one or two rounds on a busy streetcorner holding a self-shaming sign that shares your resolutionary weaknesses with the world, I promise you’ll be far more inclined to get your butt on that treadmill!

But you have to make the pain you’re avoiding actually hurt. If money doesn’t matter, a “profanity jar” won’t do dick to clean up your shitty language. (And if like me, you’re deeply thrifty but see “stop swearing” as a waste-of-valuable-life-change-effort — it won’t do you any fucking good either!)

See what I did there? Bwahahahaha!

However, there was actually a point behind that highly-entertaining-expletive-fest.

Figure out what hurts most for you.

Now this doesn’t mean toss all your recompense out the window — what I’ve found is most effective with my clients is a short-term-punishment-long-term-reward-combo. The first part happens on a daily basis (every time you leave work without taking time to tidy up your desk and plan for the next day, you have to give your secretary $5) — then the goodies come down the road (after 30-straight-days-of-following-the-proscribed-quitting-time-routine, you get to go spend that unspent $150 on a fancy dinner instead).

Just don’t do like me and take this to an extreme. Self-flagellation-with -a-cat-of-nine-tails isn’t going to get you a faster life-change than missing dessert — the mere presence of negative feedback is plenty.

You don’t have to literally bleed for your goals. Just figuratively.

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    2 Responses

    1. I had to laugh when I read the part about the swear jar – not because you’re the type of person who might inspire such a policy, but because we had that at a place I worked at many eons ago, and the worst offender would simply plop money in the jar ahead of time. You two might be kindred spirits!

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