43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Motivate yourself with "loss aversion"

NPR: Put Your Money Where Your Girth Is

I really enjoyed this Morning Edition story on "Prospect Theory," or the idea that loss aversion can be an effective motivator in goals related to health improvement like weight loss and smoking cessation:

"What we know about incentives is that people work a lot harder to avoid losing $10 than they will work to gain $10," explains Ayres. "So something that's framed as a loss is really effective at changing behavior."

Related to that question I was asked at Macworld: I wonder if a gym membership might be even more motivating if you received a daily email updating you on the wasted dollars you'd spent by not working out in the last n days.

When I started paying most of my own college tuition, I remember realizing that every class I skipped was equivalent to throwing away about a day and a half of the money I'd earned from waiting on tables. It was very motivating for me, and I started missing a lot fewer classes as a result.

mattlatmatt's picture

Agreements and Actions based on "Loss Aversion"

I heard that story as well, and really liked the little perspective flip it encourages.

Merlin, taking your gym membership idea one step further: let's imagine a membership that actually goes up the less you use it - like, you are charged $10 bucks if you don't get there 2 days a week or whatever.

While in practice this may be hard to implement, I kind of love the idea of telling customers, "Look, you want things to change - that's why you're signing up for the gym - well, if you don't make things change by actually coming in here, then we're going to make things change for you by taking something away." Making goals and connecting them to present day action can be so abstract, especially since humans are so good at dealing with whatever the situation currently is; and so bad at dealing with a change to that current situation.

AND SO: I love the idea of creating situations where change is going to happen regardless and you're just weighing the relative difficulties of either change.

MEANING: if you do not have $10 now, you can imagine living without it, and so rather than doing the work it takes to get the gym, or whatever, you'll just live without it. It's like: "I know what it's like to live without that $10, I'm already doing it; so I'm not going to bust my butt to get the $10."

But put yourself in a situation where someone's going to take away $10, and suddenly you are kicked into action. Now, since you already have the $10, it is hard to imagine living without it, and so you do whatever it takes to keep the current situation as it is.

What else besides the gym, I wonder, would it be helpful to set up this way?




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »