So last week, I sat down with Leo Babauta from ZenHabits and told him of my struggles. In our talk, Leo asked me what strategies I had used in the past that had been successful.
“Well, I’ve used the Bet Switch Mechanism as a successful strategy for losing weight. Actually, I’ve used it to write as well—when I was writing my guest post for ZenHabits for example, I owed my friend $500 if I didn’t finish it on time.”
“If it worked, why stop doing it?” Leo asked.
“Crap,” I thought. My whiteboard literally has that printed in big black letters: “If it works, keep doing it.” Underneath is printed the tactics I’ve used successfully—namely, The Bet Switch Mechanism, Hiring a Slapper, and Extreme Isolation.
“I know what you’re about to say Leo.”
“I bet you do. For the next week, at 9am, every morning, you will write for 30 minutes. And if you don’t you owe me $50.”
“Fine, you’ve got a deal.”
It’s truly amazing the power that the Bet-Switch Mechanism has. Every single day for this past week, I’ve woken up by 9am and started writing, immediately. I’ve written more words this week than I have in several months, and it’s all thanks to Leo’s advice.
Leo’s an amazing teacher as well. I woke up to extremely motivational emails from him, coming in just before I was scheduled to write. Here are a couple of the most influential emails I received from Leo.
From: Leo Babauta
Subject: tips for this morning’s writing session
1. Notice your resistance to starting. Let it go, and focus on just getting started. All you need to do is write the first few words — don’t worry about writing more than that.
2. Imagine you’re talking to a specific friend when you start writing — what would you say to that friend about this blog topic?
3. Notice the tightness you feel as you start. It’s tension, not wanting to do this, wanting to do something else. Let it go, relax, enjoy the writing.
4. Watch the urge to go do something else. Watch, don’t act. Let it arise, then go away. Now go back to writing.
Good luck my friend! Looking forward to hearing from you by 10!
And this one
From: Leo Babauta
Subject: lazy sunday writing
Just take it easy this morning, start writing at 9 a.m., enjoy it, do it for the pleasure of the writing, not for the productivity.
You got this.
Among the week, I managed to write every single day for at least 30 minutes. On Tuesday, I started late, checked Facebook, and wasn’t fully involved—so I paid up. I didn’t feel like I had really passed the test.
How can you implement this?
So, what does this mean for you? Do you, reader, have some recurring goal in your life that you want to achieve—but just can’t seem to complete? Would a bet help motivate you?
I’ve run the Bet-Switch Mechanism with several friends. One female friend of mine wasn’t motivated by money, so she opted to bet her favorite pieces of clothing—if she failed she had to donate it to charity. That got her in gear.
If you are interested in a trial run of the Bet-Switch Mechanism, first, decide on a specific, measurable goal. An example of an excellent goal follows the SMART Paradigm (which I talk about in my Minimalist Guide to Hacking Your Habits) Quick primer: a SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. “Get in shape” is vague and unattainable. Instead, a better goal would be “Do my preplanned exercise, every morning, at 10am, for 30 minutes.”
Decide on a goal, and then ask a friend to be the moderator. Believe me, there is no shortage of people willing to take your money if you fail! But, if you really have no one around you, head over to Stickk, where you can find someone who will moderate for you.
In other words, if there is some consistent habit you want to build, there is no harm in trying it out for a week. And, if you’re unwilling to put up the $50/day—well, you’re not that serious about the bet, are you?
Here are some good examples of habits that you could use the Bet Switch Mechanism for:
2) Daily (or 3x/week) Exercise
3) Eating healthy (every time you eat garbage, you owe $50/item)
4) Reading / studying
5) Quitting TV (every time you watch TV, you owe $50)
6) Quitting smoking
And lots more. There are lots of possibilities.
Are you going to try the Bet-Switch Mechanism? Let me know in the comments what your bet is—and how you’ll go about doing it. I’m glad to take your money if you can’t find anyone else