Paying for Pain

I recently spent $50 to enter the 3 Day Novel writing contest, which is basically a self inflicted version of metal torture to write as much as you can on a novel in three days over the September long weekend.  I will not lie to anyone because the experience sucks while you are doing it.  This year was particularly bad since I got sick about halfway through the weekend which added a version of physical pain to the entire process.  So why did I pay $50 to go through this level of pain?

To be honest, it is all about the results.  I have had an idea for a fiction book in my head for at least a year and I never devoted much time to developing it.  So now in three days I have a complete first draft that is 92 pages long.  Not a full novel, but a bloody good start on the project.  In a nut shell I used an Ulysses contract on myself, which is where you bind your future self to a particular action.

In my case, I told some co-workers, family members and paid money to do this so it gave me a lot of motivation to ensure I went through with my plan to devote three days to just writing (with the notable exception of going out for my anniversary supper with my wife…I was getting out of that only if I was dead).  The idea works very well for all sorts of goals regardless of they are personal, physical or even savings goals.

So this where I think a lot of people enjoy writing a personal finance blog.  You get input from people on your ideas and also often state certain public goals (either short or long term).  In effect, you are doing Ulysses contracts by publicly stating your goals and then having to explain why you completed them or not.  It’s easy to ignore a goal when no knows about it, it a lot harder when just about everyone you know is aware of it and asking about it.  Yet to really add a level of commitment to a goal you should also consider adding a monetary element.  For example, if you don’t make your goal you will pay someone $100 dollars.

While I haven’t done this yet on this blog I am now considering the idea for future goals as that would add an extra level of motivation to not lose that money.  So would you or have you ever use a Ulysses contract on yourself where you paid someone if you failed?  Or do you think that would add too much pressure to achieve the goal?

3 thoughts on “Paying for Pain”

  1. I wouldn’t use a Ulysses contract. It’s not the pressure that’s the problem, it’s the thought that I’d begin relying on a Ulysses contract all the time.

    For instance, a coworker is paying for a fitness coach to ensure he stays on diet & exercises properly. I suspect he will return to old behaviors once the coach is no longer on his payroll.

  2. It’s a really good thing that you didn’t post about this prior to the competition, or I would have entered and fallen asleep on my first day of Graduate Studies classes. Next year though, I am so joining in the “fun.”

  3. @George – Good point paying constantly to try to support a given behaviour can get expensive (which I didn’t consider when I wrote the post). I was personally thinking about more one shot deals. I suppose it is like people that pay for gym memberships and don’t use them. They can backfire without other means of supporting your objective.

    @Elizabeth – Oh, there is always next year. “Fun” might be being too kind, but it is an excellent way to jump start a project.

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