Last week, I wrote about work-related burnouts: why people get them and how they may be avoided. This week I decided it would be appropriate to build upon this idea a bit further by discussing an equally important professional skill: goal setting.
Now when we think of goals, we often do so in general terms, e.g. loosing weight or quitting smoking. But in doing so, we inadvertently set ourselves up for failure because these goals are ill-defined. There’s no action plan, just a loose idea. And without directions, we tend to get lost easily. As a result, when the going gets tough, the generalist goal setters, in turn, get to going back to their old habits. No progress is made. They become discouraged. Perhaps they buy another motivational book. Rinse and repeat. Its no surprise then that a majority of New Years Resolutions only last a few weeks! But don’t feel discouraged. Behavioral scientists may have cracked the code and uncovered a way around this collective defect.
Economists at Yale University conducted a study recently that focused on the primary factors of motivation. Their findings were twofold. First, they concluded that people’s aversion towards loosing something was stronger than their affection towards gaining something. That is, people were more inclined to keep a commitment if they knew they would lose $10 should they not follow through than if they were rewarded with $10 for completing their goal. Very interesting! But that’s not all. They then found that hate was a stronger motivating force than love. This is to say that subjects were more likely to follow through with their commitments if they knew that the money they would lose would go towards an organization they absolutely despised rather than to one they wholeheartedly supported. As a result, a new classification of non-profits was forged, which the economists called, the Anti-Charity.
These discoveries eventually led to the creation of StickK.com, which is online accountability site that asks the user to pledge a certain amount of money for each goal she makes. It also asks that she select an anti-charity of her choice that the money will go to if her intended targets are not met on time. (As a side note, I found it interesting that the top anti-charities are currently George Bush’s Library, Pro-life, and Pro-choice, so I suppose political dispositions often have a rather large influence on our motivation. Nonetheless, this site continues to receive praise from many top start-up advisors, our friend Tim Ferris being one of them.)
Now what the hell does this have to do with 7 Generation Games or with start-ups in general? The answer: a lot! Each day our staff makes goals listing what needs to be done. We also have tons of grant applications that need to be processed and documented in order to receive funding. Most likely, your start-up is the same. So what better way of solidifying your commitments than by applying these theories yourself? Indeed I have several Stickk pledges and they have served me well in helping me manage my time–hell, if I don’t my money is going straight to my most hated soccer team: Manchester United!
So if your start-up has trouble setting and maintaining goals, I encourage you to give StickK a try. I am confident that by doing so, you will see dramatic improvements in your productivity.