Beeminder Forum

the stick

So I’ve been reading some stoicism sources, one theme that I came across lately was around contentment, for example as expressed in this quote: “Asked, Who is the rich man?", Epictetus replied, "He who is content.”

Another thing is that I think beeminder works - incredibly well - but motivates using the stick and not the carrot. And I use it for a lot of t hings that make my life better overall that I wouldn’t otherwise do, and certainly not in such a disciplined fashion, to name a few yoga, exercise, meditation, diet, personal study.

And so I would even say Beeminder, and its accompanying stick, pervades my life. Although I benefit greatly from those activities, I am not pleased with the omnipresence of its stick. I’m not entirely sure if or how that relates to the notion of contentedness; maybe I should be content that I’m getting all the benefits bestowed by Beeminder, or maybe I should be content to not achieve those benefits and also not be haunted by Beeminder’s stick!

Any thoughts on stick-life balance would be appreciated


The thing with Beeminder is that you control the size of the stick. You can cap all of your goals at $5 and make them relatively easy to achieve.

I’d even go as far as to say that Beeminder is primarily carrot-driven for myself–I enjoy seeing my graphs and progress slowly climb upwards, with datapoints that come in automatically through integration.

To get more philosophical though, I believe fundamentally that life in general is about doing the most good for yourself and others–and doing good is usually not easy. There are definitely moments where I am not content, where I’m stressed or anxious because I have hard work to do or because of the looming stick, sure. But overall, I’m far more content with myself and my life if I’m doing that difficult good work, rather than if I chose a life where I avoid all difficult work and sticks.


Hi Neal,

I wonder if the answer to the question depends on how in particular the stick haunts you.

If it haunts you because your goals are too ambitious for the real circumstances of the day-to-day, maybe taking down the pressure on them would help.

If it haunts you because the pledge feels too scary to feel like comfortable motivation without too much stress then, like @brennanbrown pointed out, you can reduce the size of the stick to take that pressure down a bit.

If it haunts you because, like me, you can at times commit to too many pledged goals for your own personal threshold at a time and then slingshot back and forth between overcommitment and needing a break, you can try setting lightly demanding Beeminder goals for only your most absolutely important goals for a while.

If it haunts you by each goal being worth keeping consistent on but, together, them being just… a hell of a lot, maybe trying to beemind mini-habits (floss at least one tooth, do at least one push up, meditate for at least 30 seconds, write at least 25 words, etc.) to keep consistency even on your worst days without feeling overwhelmed. (I love this method, actually. It’s one of my favourite and most soothing and success-spiral-y ways to beemind a goal for my psychology.)

If it haunts you cause you feel like you “shouldn’t need” Beeminder, there’s a great article in the Atlantic: Why It's OK to Let Apps Make You a Better Person - The Atlantic

Basically, what makes it haunt you and is there a way to tweak it so that it fits you better and the haunting element can be plucked out while keeping the elements that work for you?


Thanks Mary! I can see I’ve got too many goals, and i love the mini-habits idea. The article is also basically talking about some of my “philosophical” issue with Beeminder… for example, the infantilism aspect; would a monk who, say, renounced the world (and their phone) because they know that happiness and contentment doesn’t come externally, but needed beeminder to force them to meditate, be happy and content? luckily that’s not my problem anyway - i think your mini-habits tip is exactly what i was looking for.

Also Brennan, I don’t get anything from seeing the graphs going up, though I’ve sometimes gotten a (very) little bit of motivation from e.g. “streaks”, in a different app. Is that what you’re talking about? so BMs “stick” is just a secondary motivation?



I was really surprised when I met up with someone I hadn’t seen in a long time, and they told me they had done a few year-long meditation retreats (and were on their way to do another in a few days!). He was pretty explicit about how the retreat as a whole, and many of the parts of the retreat, were designed to make it easier to spend your day meditating and to make it more inconvenient to quit.

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This reminds me of Beeminder’s A Monastery is a Commitment Device blog post by David Howell, which I found enlightening. tl;dr the entirety of life in a monastery is a commitment contract that forces them to meditate! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Thanks its interested to think of monastaries as a different kind of commitment contract.

Considering positive versus negative reinforcment… for me i think beeminder works, for now, best as a (maybe distant) insurance policy… i’ve been deleting and dialing down goals - i had too many and it was overscheduling my time… I’m curious how you adjust to the “right” balance between too little and too much for you? Do you think in terms of number of goals, frequency, penalties, and how do you think about these together?

Thanks for the interesting replies.