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.

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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:

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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.

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