The Power of a Public Commitment

Image by Félix Vallotton

Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.
— Wayne Dyer

I had a minor crisis at work today, and had to work later than usual. Frankly, I am exhausted, and while I enjoy writing this site, if I am to be completely honest, I must confess that tonight I’d prefer to have another glass of wine, catch up on Downton Abbey, and go to sleep. Yet here I am, writing another post. I can also say with complete confidence that, had I not publicly committed to my thirty-day posting challenge, I more than likely would have given myself a break tonight.

Human nature is a funny thing. We have a hard time staying motivated to do things that don’t have an immediate benefit, even if we know intellectually that they will have an enormous benefit long-term. In fact, this little quirk is at the heart of most people’s struggles with money, and of course it’s well documented that those who are able to overcome it have much better prospects in life.

Public Humiliation for Fun and Profit

With a bit of self awareness and determination, however, you can work around this little shortcoming. For example, making a public commitment is an extremely effective way of bringing immediacy back to your goal. The real payoff you’re shooting for may be a long way off, but the pain of coming up short in a very public manner comes at once. Avoiding that very real, very immediate pain gives you the instant gratification that seems to be all the rage nowadays. All you have to do is arrange for it.

You can put this little hack to good use for almost any goal you’d like to reach. Exercise is a popular one. (I fancy I’ll make that my next one myself, in fact.) It can work equally well for financial goals, provided you’re brave enough to put your financial situation out there for all to see. Try declaring publicly that you’ll save X% of your income over the next month, and see if your resolve isn’t just a bit stronger.

If you’re not quite that brave, though, I understand. As an alternative, you might check out a Web site called There you can choose a single referee, and a suitably repugnant penalty for failure — for example, having to donate $100 to the George W. Bush presidential library (I hear some of the books haven’t even been colored, yet.) If that isn’t enough to motivate you, then perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be.

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