Cash for Goals: How to Actually Motivate Yourself and Put In the Work

Just last week I got a newsletter in my inbox from personal trainer and certified ripped guy Andy of He regaled a funny story of how he promised his friends he would buy an entire bar a round of drinks if he couldn’t learn to write 2042 Japanese characters (kanji). Perfectly. Within 3 months.

If you want to see how it ends, you can subscribe to his newsletter. But I’ll give you a hint, because the story reminded me of how I stuck to a small goal. . . .

Last year during the run-up to the presidential election, I wanted to commit to doing something every morning for a week. It wasn’t a lifesaving or necessary task; skipping it would have no real consequences. That’s exactly how I knew wasn’t going to do it unless I made a real, and I mean real, commitment.

I told my boyfriend that if I didn’t do this thing every morning, I would donate $50 to Donald Trump’s campaign.

I did it every morning without fail.

I really, really didn’t want DT to get my money.

How many times have you said you were going to commit to something, to not only slack off, but not really care?

Let’s say you want to finish writing a book you’ve been slacking on. You say to yourself, “I’ll commit to finishing a chapter this month.” Maybe you even write the goal down . . . and promise yourself a reward if you succeed, like a new gadget. You put in the work for a few days, writing every so often . . . . but soon you’re back to old habits. You write inconsistently, and don’t finished even one chapter.

What’s the worst that happened?

Well . . . nothing. You can go about living your life, not really bothered that you didn’t write 5 chapters, because nothing bad happened. Things just stayed the same . . . and you’re used to the same. The same is easy. And you bought that new gadget anyway.

Without something genuinely motivating us to work, it’s too easy to just be lazy. It’s human nature.

Well it turns out one of the most motivating things about humans is loss avoidance. If you knew you were going to lose $300 if you didn’t write a chapter, what do you think your motivation would be like?

So how do you think Andy did?

Next Steps

  1. Think about a goal you have in mind.
  2. Write it down.
  3. Share with a friend or partner.
  4. Give them money or something else valuable; $5 won’t do, it has to really hurt if you lose it.
  5. Tell them to only give it back if you achieve your goal.
    • If you don’t, they will donate it to an anti-charity of your choice.

[You can also try stickK for this.]

Now some of you are thinking, “No way! I’m not risking $300!” Honestly, just pay up, because trust me, you’ll do the work. If you are genuinely terrified of losing the money because you know deep down you won’t really try, then there are probably some deeper issues to explore about your goals and motivations. . . . which I’ll save for another post. Otherwise, you’re just making excuses.

Can you to commit to one goal for cold, hard cash?

I finally said sayonara to digital planers and have switched to paper. Yes, paper. Like, made from trees. I recently created a day-on-one-page planner spread that uses everything I have learned about goal planning, to achieve the best possible results one day at a time. I’ve increased my productivity 200%. Just let me know where to send it and it’s all yours to print, 100% free. You’ll get an explainer, too, so you’ll know exactly how to use it. The only catch is in 2 weeks, you have to tell me if you liked the planner or not.


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