Motivate Yourself With a Bet


I have always wanted to be a writer. My parents read to me when I was young, our TV room was lined with shelves of books and my parents discussed what novel they were reading over dinner. It seemed like a dream job to write books that impacted other people as much as books had impacted my family’s lives.

Like most aspiring writers, I daydreamed about stories and situations. I would imagine how these ideas would make great books or even movies. However, fantasizing often goes nowhere. The idea has to be incubated, flushed out and most importantly, it has be written down. A typical novel is at least 60,000 words and many are well over 100,000. Most aspiring writers I know get stuck somewhere around 100 words. They are paralyzed by self doubt and the realization that this will take a while. That paralysis and I'll do it when things calm down attitude had killed my motivation for over five years.

A few years ago my wife, Eda, had a similar motivational problem. She wanted to complete the Insanity workout and needed a push to get started. So we came up with the idea of using a bet to motivate each other. I would write 700 words a day and she would complete a workout from the Insanity program. We would have to do this for at least five days out of the week. If either one of us failed this mission, then a harsh punishment would be imposed. The punishment had to be something cruel. It had to be something neither of us could stand. We knew that we hated waking up early more than anything else. So the agreed punishment was that the loser would have to wake up before the winner and cook the winner breakfast every day for an entire month.

We knew this was a good plan because we are both extremely competitive. Eda had been known to wash dishes after she lost at a board game to calm herself down. I grew up with a very competitive older brother who never let me win any video or board games. Then there was the negative reinforcement. We both hate getting up early. Getting up just to make the other person breakfast is our own model of hell.

So did it work out? Of course it did. There was no way either of us would lose a bet to the other. The consequence would last a month, but the shame would last a lifetime. Eda completed a workout program that earns its Insanity title and I wound up with over 30,000 words. It was a good start towards a novel. I had no idea if what I wrote was any good, but that was not the point. I proved to myself that I had the stamina to get that many words on a page. Quality will follow with practice. It is easier to edit something than it is to create it from scratch.

This is a fun tool for your motivational toolbox. If you have something you have always wanted to do or work on, try making a bet out of it with someone who is close to you. Make it public. Tell your friends you are entering the bet and make sure the punishment is severe. Avoid consequences you would not mind doing. For example, if you often go out to dinners, avoid making the consequence buying someone dinner. It is best if it is something you hate doing and is something you must do for a period of time.



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