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Have You Ever Changed A Habit? How?


in Exercise, Productivity

We’ve talked a lot here over the years about how to hack your routine to accomplish your goals, but it’s been a while since we checked in on one of my all-time favorite techniques.

Do you remember the Bet-Switch Mechanism?

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a series on a psychological technique I call the Bet-Switch Mechanism. It’s based on the principle that most people are more motivated by the thought of losing something than they are by the possibility of achieving a goal.

The Bet Switch Mechanism: If you add a bet to anything you don’t want to do (wake up on time, go to the gym, floss, etc), you add accountability to your goal. And you drastically increase your chances of success.

So in response, I realized that I could push myself to accomplish some of my more frustrating goals by making a high-stakes bet with my friends.

If I do what I’m supposed to, I keep the money. But if I procrastinate, or get distracted, or miss my goal for any other reason, my buddy gets the money. Or worse – I’m forced to do something painful or they get to release an embarrassing photo or video.

Below, you can see an example of the Bet Switch Mechanism I did in July in Po

Adding accountability is the first step to success

Now, I love seeing reader stories: Check out this email I got from a reader last week:

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 12.27.18 AM

Pretty hardcore, right?

Not a lot of people would have the guts to put their job on the line.

Then again, not a lot of people make it to the gym four mornings a week, and almost all of us could do with a little more exercise in our lives. I have to admit I’m pretty impressed.

Well done, man!

But that’s not the only example I still use this process all the time in my own life, and lots of readers like you have too.

Could you do me a favor?

Now I know a lot of my readers have tried this in the past, but unfortunately, I’ve never taken the time to collect all of those stories in one place.

I’d love to hear more stories about what you guys have accomplished with this technique. If you’ve tried it out, will you let me know how it went?

Share your story in the comments below, or shoot me an email ( if you’d like to keep some of the details private.

Specifically, let me know 2 things:

  1. Have you ever made a bet to encourage yourself to make a really difficult change? If not, could  you see yourself using it?
  2. What’s the #1 new habit you’d like to create in 2014?

I’ll highlight the best ones here on my site to help other people make changes in their life. Thanks for your help!


Rachele December 25, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Every time I have broken or assumed a habit, I have simply removed as many distractions as possible. Drop all side projects, delegate household or business responsibilities, and lower your standards on everything else until you have anchored the new habit . I used it to get out of debt and amass substantial savings, start working out an hour a day for over a year, give up caffeine, and go vegan. Although in the end, I decided that last one wasn’t right for me long term. While immersion is not always practical, this method simulates it in many ways, and I think I get a similar effect to the personal bet method because I’ve more or less put my whole lifestyle on the line. My attachment to my current way of life and my desire to get back to normal is a powerful incentive to get my new habit locked down.


Benjamin December 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Total immersion. To get used to talking to anyone, I hitchhiked the USA for a year. Set limits, no paying for rides/places to stay.


Keith December 17, 2013 at 1:25 am

I was able to make working out a habit by switching from machines and cardio to free weights. Specifically, making the “big lifts” such as squats, deadlifts, overhead press, and bench press the core of my routine. When I did that, I found much more satisfaction from working out, and increased drive to do it. It really caused me to stick to it too, which I never did before.

I think it worked for a couple of reasons. One is that lifting heavy weights makes me feel powerful. It’s funny but focusing on how it made me feel was way more motivating than focusing on the benefits such as better health. Second, I think lifting heavy creates a more pronounced hormone release, and it made me feel almost addicted to working out. It actually became more difficult to stay out of the gym for recovery.

Another thing that I added later was some intense interval training such as pushing/pulling a weighted sled, and dragging heavy (300 lbs) chains around the parking lot of the gym. It gave a similar feeling of power, because these are some of the few ways that you can push yourself beyond your limits so to speak. It is a great way to end a workout, and believe me, you will need to stay out of the gym afterward for recovery reasons if you do it. It stresses your central nervous system a lot so just a friendly caution – if you do it you need to allow for more recovery time. But it makes you feel absolutely awesome. Motivation is not a factor at that point.

Another aspect of why it worked is that I started with short workouts and that seemed to work really well. Even 15 minute workouts can leave you wanting to get back in the gym and dd it again. The workout duration increases from there as your conditioning improves. It becomes hard to keep it to an hour actually. The problem there is that excessively long workouts (like longer than 90 minutes) become counter productive. So you need f=to force yourself to rest and take days off. For me, at 51, two days recovery after every workout day is about right. But trust me, it’s not easy to stay out of the gym once you start lifting free weights. One concession I make is on recovery days, I will only do slow cardio like walking on the treadmill if I really can’t make myself stay out of the gym.

Hope this helps explain how I formed my habit, and that it is valuable to others.



Tyler December 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Very small habits done everyday at the same time. I used the Four Hour Body and Slow-Carb to lose 60 pounds in 3 months. The cornerstone of all the weight loss was the Slow-Carb breakfast with 30 g. of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Everyday I’d wake up in a groggy state, but my body would always take me to the kitchen.


Maneesh Sethi December 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Has the habit stuck? Do you ever binge?


Dewey December 16, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I use the bet switch mechanism with my roommate. I usually have 4-8 things on a monthly contract that I must complete every week. Like wake up at 6:20 AM M-F, workout 2 times a week, play guitar twice a week, and read 4 times a week. I hang up the contract on our fridge with $5 behind and at any point he will question me and take it if I have not kept up with the contract.

One of the best things to do to change habits.


Maneesh Sethi December 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

How well has it been working? Do you tend to binge at the end? How to you structure overlapping bets?


Gary December 16, 2013 at 11:08 am

Indeed reading all those gread blogs, even got phyc books and signed up with ‘Precision Nutrition’.
Great guys to change habits… however I am still not successful at all in change any habits of mien. Its very *^&#% ooh well


Zach December 16, 2013 at 10:55 am

1. I made a few bets. My most successful was promising to send my buddy 5 bucks for every morning I slept in past 8am. The funny thing is, I debated this for MONTHS, worried that I’d lose a ton of money if I pulled the trigger. When I did, I was up at 8am every day.

2. In 2014 I want to create a habit of thinking deeply about what I want and where I want to be…Just every morning, setting an alarm, and taking 15 minutes to contemplate where I really want to end up.

If I do just that daily, I think it will help to “begin with the end in mind” and inform the rest of my habits that I need to form, arming me with the ‘why’ that I’m changing my behavior.


Alvin Huynh December 16, 2013 at 10:03 am

I used the bet switch mechanism to get into the habit of reading an hour everyday. This is something that I still do. Before that, I would only read a few books each year. Now I’m reading a few every month.

The #1 new habit I’d like to create in 2014 would be to start journaling.

Thanks for the great tip Maneesh.


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