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Shame as a motivator

There's an adage which goes something like the following:

The easiest way to quit smoking is to tell the people closest to you that you've already quit.

Why? You want to be held accountable to your word, and to avoid public shame. I've generalised it to the following principle:

It's more likely you'll do 𝑥 if you publicly tell people you respect that you're going to do 𝑥.

Shame is an effective forcing function for achieving my goals, and a key technique I use to motivate myself.

Applying the principle

State your goals publicly

For me, this forum of people that I respect is Twitter (stop laughing in the back). I've set two public goals this year:

Before I set out to achieve these, I tweeted that I was going to achieve the goals. Thus, the gauntlet was thrown down.

But Stephen, people have to get on with their lives. They couldn't care less whether you run. Yes, you're right. Ultimately, I know that random people on Twitter probably couldn't care less whether I achieve either of these goals. But, some part of my mind believes that they do. When I proclaim something publicly, I convince myself that I'll be held accountable for performance against it.

Self-delusion is the best type of delusion.

Recognise your progress against them

If you've made some progress against these goals, celebrate it publicly! 🎉

For me, I tweet whenever I hit 100 mile increments against my 1000 mile goal. I completed my second goal today, and again, tweeted it.

Is this for public approval? Yes, of course. But the reason why is what matters. This is in the service of strengthening your motivation, not abstract self congratulation.

In general, I'm not particularly comfortable celebrating my achievements in public. It feels humble-braggy, and a lame thing to do. But, I also realise that a small dopamine hit of peer approval can be the difference between carrying on against a challenging goal, or giving up totally. I think it's a good tradeoff to make.