A neat accountability trick

Changing habits and holding yourself to an agreement both present significant challenge to most people- it’s why we admire people who make big changes in life, like the friend who lost weight equivalent to an entire them (today) because they were 2x bigger four years ago; the family member who gave up drugs and alcohol cold-turkey (despite both alcohol and opiate withdrawals being incredibly challenging); the extremely organized person you recently went out to covid-safe dinner in the park with; you know who you admire & you think, “I could never do that” when you reflect on them.

So I was duly impressed with a friend of mine, who had borrowed a jacket about a month ago now, and who I’ve bothered about it several times since. I saw him in person, and, obviously frustrated, asked, “where’s my jacket!?” He whips out his wallet and says, “Every time you see me, if I don’t have your jacket, I’ll give you $20.” AND THEN HE GAVE ME MONEY! For real!

I was flabbergasted. I know this guy doesn’t want to give up $20 every time he sees me, so he’s going to forget my jacket MAYBE one more time. (Which is too bad, because it’s a winter jacket so by the time I get it back, I won’t need it, but …)

This move impressed me so badly because it plays to his biggest fear – he won’t have enough money. It has tangible consequences – he needs money to live and to grow his business. It has an effect on both of us – me, it makes me less likely to bother him about it in between social events, and him, it makes him more likely to actually bring the jacket back and stem the loss.

I’m so proud and happy about this – partially because this person is something like a nephew to me, and when I mentioned how great that trick was and that I would use it, he mentioned, “I learned it from you.” Confused, I asked him to expand on that thought, because I sure as heck didn’t tell him to put a penalty on himself for his bad behavior — a genius move — and he pointed out the talk I’d given him recently about responsibility. He made this genius move because of me! I couldn’t be any more thrilled than I am right now.

Would you implement something similar in your life? If yes, what would the situation be, and how about the penalty?

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