Leverage pre-commitment pacts to smash your goals
I first learned meditation when I was 21. I went for the full-on experience. A silent 10-day vipassana retreat.
Some would call this jumping in at the deep end. I had just graduated and 10 days of free food were enough to pique my interest.
The experience was unique and unlike anything I had encountered before.
Day 1 was a shock. I realized how chaotic my mind was. By day 3, I was sold — wandering around the gardens in a state of bliss, my body buzzing with energy. Day 4–6 I was plotting my escape. I could not take it any longer. On day 8, having failed to escape through the hedge, my mood lifted. Day 10 was huge, I could talk to my fellow students again.
The retreat was powerful, if not life-changing. I had some wonderful experiences. I spent time with my thoughts. I realized how derailing the monkey mind can be.
I was motivated to meditate every day. This lasted until the first weekend. I missed a day, then another, then a week had gone by. Whoops!
The same story occurred time and time again.
Every time I hear about a new app or a podcast harps on about the benefits of meditation a surge of motivation hits me. I knock out a streak of 2–10 days. I miss a day, I miss a week.
I had never managed more than 2 weeks in a row.
Then I learned about pre-commitments. A tool to stay on track when building habits.
I made a price pact with myself
I committed to losing £10 on days I failed to meditate. Losses motivate us far more than rewards. Not only did I commit to losing £10. I made it visceral and I left myself a visual reminder.
The pandemic meant I had to settle for a fiver. Who has cash these days? Anyway, the thought of inhaling polymer fumes felt like bonus points.
If I failed to meditate that day I would take the lighter and burn the note.
I checked — I think this is legal in the UK. Defacing a note is illegal, but destroying one gets the green light.
Burning money may be illegal in other countries. Come up with a different pact — or never miss a day! Consider donating to an “anti-charity”. Perhaps a political organization you disagree with, or a rival sports team? Think of an organization you absolutely can not face funding.
The method is simple.
I see the note every morning and evening. I am reminded that failing to meditate = financial loss (and dirtied lungs).
If I don’t X, then I lose Y.
Apply this to any habit you are trying to install. This could be hitting the gym or eating a handful of leafy greens.
Obstacles & solutions
Take a couple of minutes to think about what might derail your new habit. What if I’m traveling? What if it’s raining and I don’t want to go for a run? What If the store ran out of cabbage? What if my family is sick?
Now generate a solution for the potential obstacle. How can I adapt to this scenario? What still counts as a hit if the universe threw you a curveball?
At this point, I leveraged B.J. Fogg’s Wisdom.
“The essence of Tiny Habits is this: Take a behavior you want, make it tiny, find where it fits naturally in your life, and nurture its growth. If you want to create long-term change, it’s best to start small”. B.J. Fogg — Tiny Habits
I decided that 1 minute would still count as a “hit” for me. That’s ridiculously easy, how on earth could I fail that? The rationale is that once I’ve started, 1 minute will likely turn into more anyway.
I knew I would be traveling a few weeks after my pact. This presented a test to my newly formed habit. I decided to tuck the note into my kindle when I was on the road — I never fail to read before bed. If I got to the end of a day and hadn’t meditated yet, I would see the note and get my minute in before sleeping.
I have now meditated every day for over 5 months. At this point, the habit is ingrained. There has only been one day when my meditation was around the minute mark. This saved my streak, momentum, and lungs!
I am a life coach based in the UK. Clients often work with me to gain clarity on their goals and the path to achieving them. Habits are a regular feature of my coaching sessions as they facilitate powerful changes.
Crafting your best life is much easier with a partner. Take a look at my services to find out more.
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