Raise the Stakes

sharksThis blog comes with a warning: read on only if you are a serious goal setter. If you are passive about setting goals and pursuing them, just stop reading now, because you won’t like what I have to say!

Let’s say you’re going to run a marathon. “I’d better go run today,” you say to yourself. If you’re like me, sometimes you just really don’t feel like it, so you say, “Okay, I can skip just one workout—no big deal.” Tomorrow, the same thing happens, then again, and again, and again. Suddenly, it’s the day of the marathon, and you’re like, “Oh well, maybe next year I’ll do it.”

Here’s a story for you that I read from one of my favorite authors, Brian Tracy:

A frozen fish processor had trouble selling a new line of fish because they tasted flat. The company tried everything to keep the fish fresh, including holding them in tanks until just before processing, but with no luck. Someone suggested that putting a predator in the same tank would keep the fish fresh. The idea worked! The fish kept moving and retained their vitality.

This analogy applies to us as well: when a person has something big at stake—like survival, money, or reputation—a natural byproduct is increased motivation.

Think of one goal, either career or personal, you’ve been putting off. Now imagine that you’ve made a bet with an impartial and fair observer. If you don’t complete your goal or your sub goals (i.e., the number of sales calls per day or a specific workout schedule for a given week), this impartial observer would be allowed to burn your entire life’s savings, your house, and your car. Anything of value would be gone. How much would that motivate you? It sure would motivate me.

While setting up a situation such as the one described above is not a good idea, the basic premise has validity: we must raise the stakes if we are to increase our motivation.

If you’re not motivated to do something, you’re simply not going to do it. Motivation is a crucial factor in absolutely everything we do. In my opinion, around 25 – 50% of motivation must come naturally, but that other 50 – 75% we need to create or manufacture for ourselves. Once you’ve discovered this reality, you can apply it anywhere in your life. Basically, you want to create situations in which you will be ultra motivated.

You should raise the stakes for your goals. Keep in mind that anything that sounds really easy is never as simple as we think it is. I think most people “raise the stakes” just by telling themselves they have to do something by a certain time. For example, here are some basic goals:

“I will win President’s Club in 2014!”

“I am going to lose 50 pounds this year!”

“I am going to complete an Ironman Triathlon this summer!”

What would these goals and others look like if you added some higher stakes to them?

Think about the times you have gotten something done because the stakes were high. What was at stake? Losing your job? Getting a bad grade? Letting down a friend? Losing money? Not finishing the race when all your friends and family were watching?

When you have something significant at stake:

1. Your attention is focused on your goal. Achieving your goal matters.

2.  You will work harder, simply because you have a vested interest in the outcome.

3. You won’t give up easily. You will fight until the bitter end.

Despite having no intrinsic value, money is one of the most motivating forces in the world. So if you want to raise the stakes on your goals, put your money on the line.

Tell a friend or family member what your goal is and then tell them what you’re putting on the line. This is just like having an accountability partner—except, this time, there’s money on the line. You’ll want an impartial observer: someone who’ll ask you for proof of completion and won’t buy any excuses.

I use stickK.com to help me raise the stakes on my goals. At stickK.com, you can enter your credit card information, and the monetary amount you designate (your high stakes!) will be donated by a referee (someone you designate as an accountability partner) to a charity if you don’t hit your goal. But here’s the catch—if your money gets taken away, it might go to a charity you support, or it might go to one you don’t support at all. 

I can’t think of anyone who wants to give money to a charity that goes against his or her values, can you? So guess what you’ve just done? You’ve raised the stakes.

Food for thought: if you’re not willing to put money on the line, maybe your goal isn’t as important to you as you thought it was.

If you want to accomplish big goals, you’ve got to have skin in the game. You don’t have to pledge your house, but you need to have something significant at stake, and the more concrete you can make it, the better.

Go ahead. Raise the stakes today.

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  1. Pingback: Living the “Don’t Quit” Life

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