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120. Precommitment: Boosting Cooperation for Yourself and Others, a Behavioral Economics Foundations Episode

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Today, we are talking about precommitment and how it can be used in life and business. As far as concepts go, I’m guessing this is one of those you’ve heard of and think you know everything about, so I’m going to challenge that belief and hopefully teach you some new insights and ways to use precommitment on today’s show by sharing a personal example. Precommitment is very closely related to time discounting, as well as loss aversion, habits, and several other concepts.
As a side note, can I just say that I can hardly believe we’ve made it to 120 episodes of the podcast already? And, there is another exciting milestone that is going to be hitting as this episode comes out. I’m not sure exactly when it will happen, but sometime between recording and the release of the episode we will hit a quarter of a million downloads! A quarter-million you guys! From 160 countries around the world and 120 episodes downloaded 250,000 times.
Precommitment is a big reason this has all been made possible. Because of my vow to have new episodes every single Friday no matter what – a precommitment I made to the void when launching the show, we always have new content come out. In 120 episodes I’ve never missed, and I hope I never will. It seems very fitting that today’s episode on precommitment is marking this exciting quarter-million milestone.

Show Notes:

  • [01:01] Precommitment is very closely related to time discounting, as well as loss aversion, habits, and several other concepts that will be linked for you in the show notes.
  • [03:02] When I started The Brainy Business, I made a commitment to do a weekly show for one full year before evaluating if it was a fit for my business or a waste of time. I’m so thankful to say, it was clearly worth its weight in time gold (far before hitting that one year mark) and The Brainy Business is here to stay.
  • [06:11] Precommitments can be external like throwing all the junk food out of the house or dumping soda down the drain. They can also be internal, like a promise to yourself that you will not break. And a combination.
  • [07:20] Cognitive dissonance is essentially the discomfort we feel when our perception of ourselves doesn’t line up with our actions. (This concept will have its own episode soon.)
  • [08:28] Our brains write off a story that doesn’t align with how we want to see ourselves surprisingly quickly.
  • [10:02] We can use some precommitment tactics while in a cold state to help set us up for success when the moment comes.
  • [11:53] The thing about precommitment is, while it does help us stick to the right stuff, we can also be way too good at ignoring our own best intentions (so it doesn’t always work). The best way to combat this? Narrow focus.
  • [13:23] We need to own that past to have a better future. If we don’t (and instead let the distaste for cognitive dissonance explain it away) it will never change—we will never change—and no amount of precommitment trick will do it for us. 
  • [14:17] As with all applied behavioral science, there is a bigger problem at the root, and it is important to take a step back to make sure you are addressing the whole thing when you put your precommitment devices in place.
  • [16:00] Finding the most important thing to work on and dedicating all your willpower to that one thing is much more likely to be successful. 
  • [16:48] Depending on the goal you choose to use precommitment tactics to help with, there are some cool apps, like Stickk.
  • [18:26] Forest is an app that can be used if you want to be more productive and especially if you have a hard time not getting distracted by your phone.
  • [21:13] When Nikki Rausch was on the show we talked about making it easy to do business with you and scheduling your circle back calls in the moment someone is interested. Making that precommitment is so much more effective in continuing conversations moving forward.
  • [21:41] Get the appointment on the calendar in that moment. It is a precommitment that is a lot harder to push off than a theoretical conversation that may happen someday. 
  • [23:08] Set the expectations upfront to help everyone be on the same page and comfortable with the commitment.
  • [24:09] I want to close out this episode with one of my favorite precommitment tactics, the loss aversion jar.
  • [26:42] Seeing the money in the jar and knowing it all goes away if you miss, can help you keep on track especially if you have a buddy who you know will hold you to it (the threat needs to be real!).
  • [27:34] You can celebrate your wins and achieve those goals by using precommitment in a responsible way.
  • [28:31] If you can’t commit to having the “extremely bad thing” as your consequence if you don’t meet the goal…ask yourself why. If you’re not willing to commit to it fully, don’t work on it right now. Is there something else that is more important to work on first?
  • [29:32] What will your goal be? When will you achieve it? Make the commitment by sharing it with me on social media. Find me as @thebrainybiz everywhere (links below!)

Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show. 

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