The Commitment Contract: How To Effectively Change Habits

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By Kwame Oluwasomi

We’ve all heard the proverb, from many mouths, that no one ever really changes, yet here we all are, on this brilliant blue planet, trying to change. Evolution is demanded of us if we are to survive, yet the sheer amount of effort we put into changing our ways rarely, if ever, seems to yield the desired results. Sure, we may be able to take on new patterns of behaviour in the short term but when it comes to turning those new patterns into habits we fall flat on our faces. And the older we get, the more responsibilities we bare, causing us to rely on well established habitual behaviour in order to put more conscious effort into bearing stress.

This is where the commitment contract comes in. It’s self explanatory, really. You formally oblige to adhere to a list of rules/tasks/commitments, daily, on pain of… well, whatever you decide. But the harsher the penalty for breaking contract, the more likely you are to adhere to your own rules. is a social network, of sorts, that allows you to enter into a commitment contract and be tracked by your friends or other referees online.

The website’s creator, Dean Karlan is a Professor of Behavioral Economics at Yale University. He needed to lose weight and on his journey to achieving his goal he discovered a very successful goal-setting tool. Through his research he found that people were significantly more successful in achieving their goals if they signed a contract obliging them to do so.

Only when we’re in extreme peril do we find it in ourselves to do a cerebral 180° and become completely unrecognisable. It’s clear that we do have the ability to change under pressure when enough is applied.

The commitment contract works by utilizing the psychological power of loss aversion and accountability, one can drive behavior change in almost any context.

Here’s an example of someone who did just that.


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Image Credit: Boyinaband


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