Framing or reframing of your commitment contract


The default framing for motivation on Beeminder (at least for do more goals) is “Do this thing, or else you have to pay X$”. A few days ago I was struggling to get myself to write an important email and even explicitly thinking about losing 30$ was not enough motivation, so I tried reframing the situation. First I imagined I had already paid the 30$ and I now had the chance to get paid 30$ for doing the thing. That alone was not enough, and upon reflection, I have doubts whether that framing can be useful at all, because people are generally more loss averse[1]. Then I realized, that I would have have to write the email eventually anyways, and it became “I get paid 30$ for doing it today instead of tomorrow” and I went ahead and did it :tada:.

So we have:

  • Either do the thing or pay X$
  • Imagine you’ve already paid X$, get your money back for doing the thing
  • Imagine you’ve already paid X$, get your money back for doing the thing now instead of at a later time

I’m interested in hearing if there are other ways of framing your commitment contract that you have had success with.

[1]: For instance, many people will not take a bet at even odds of winning 12$ vs losing 10$.


Whatever framing works at each occasion is the best. I find that it can vary from time to time. There isn’t a silver bullet to it.
The only constant for me is trying to always be honest with myself.


Another slight variant framing that sometimes works for me is, instead of thinking of the X$ as a punishment for not doing the thing, I think of it as having the option to pay X$ for the privilege of not doing the thing. That is, I ask myself, “Am I willing to pay X$ to not do the thing?” Framing things in terms of “do this or else” can put me in more of a stubborn, rebellious child mode where I resent being told what to do; framing things in terms of “it’s your choice, you can do this or you can pay X$ if you’d rather not” puts me in more of a responsible adult mode, where I appreciate getting to make my own choices. Often when I frame things in the latter way it becomes clear that paying X$ to get out of doing the thing would be a foolish waste of money.


Ah, yes, @bee’s classic “Bee Nice To Yourself” philosophy:


Yeah, I use the “am I willing to pay $X to not do the thing?” framing a lot myself! It’s useful because occasionally, it IS worth $90 for me to go to bed right. now. and not finish a goal, and acknowledging that and going to bed without guilt is a good choice; most of the time, of course, that’s obviously a terrible trade off, and I just do the thing instead.