Friday, April 1, 2011

Incentives

The world is incentives based. That's at least what economists say. You need proper incentives to get something done, even if the incentive is as simple as feeling good about yourself or comes in the form of pride, it is still incentive.

A friend and I are trying to find more time to train martial arts. To do this we need to at least meet up and train together three times a week, an hour at a time. We are both serious people, and committed martial artists, and even still we will fail at this with just a handshake and a promise. The only way we can get better is if we put in those three meetings every week consistently. So I told him we have to have a system. If one of us doesn't show up to practice, or cancels on the other person the same day, we will owe the other person a $100. So I guess we are taking our commitment very seriously right? And for sure now neither one of us will ever miss a practice, and we will get better very quickly. If that incentive isn't in place, I guarantee this whole deal will fall apart. How do I know? We have tried, as other martial artists have in the past and it always ends up one person mad at the other person as being a flake.

The same thing is true for fitness. With my clients I too have a cancellation policy of 24 hours. If I let people cancel whenever without penalty, what will they do? They will inevitably cancel whenever. They will also show up to less sessions a week. Not intentionally, but never the less it will happen.

So what about people who are working out on their own or with a friend? They need goals, they need incentives. If you are working out with a buddy, make a promise of something like 5 dollars. It doesn't have to be a large amount like I am using (because I am planning on never having to pay it). It's not the amount that will drive the person to show up, its the principle they have to pay will drive your partner to show up. It's the incentive. All humans naturally have a sense of entitlement, use it in a good way, use it to attain your goal. It doesn't even have to be money, it could be like buying someone lunch, washing their car, etc. It's just that money is the most convenient, you may have to wait forever for that person to wash your car, in which case it doesn't work very well as an incentive. Or both people can put money into a pot and whoever loses more percentage wins the pot. Or both training partners can reward themselves with something when their reach their fitness goals.

If you are working out alone, it could also be the form of a reward. Or you will deny yourself a night of going out or seeing a concert you wanted to see if you miss a workout session. Or you can donate 10 dollars every time to a charity. It doesn't matter.

We just have to be realistic. If you never worked out three times on your own, it is unrealistic to think you will all of a sudden do it because you magically create a love of fitness. It's best to give yourself an incentive.

I find money the easiest thing to work with, because it's simple, the idea of gaining or losing capital. It's also the most convenient and doesn't take any extra leg work.
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