Thursday, January 17, 2008

Can Commitment Bonds Help You stickK to your goals?

Ian Ayres

I’ve helped to create a new company,, which has just launched. StickK is a free service that offers commitment bonds to help you stick to your goals. You can choose your goal, your stakes and even your referee. For example, you could put $100 at risk each week and promise to lose some weight. If you keep your commitment, you get your money back, if you don’t it goes to charity (or someone that you designate).

Commitment bonds have helped me live a happier life in 2007. I committed to exercise more (and for the first time can do 10 pull ups). I committed to read more (and have had the pleasure of reading more than 40 novels). But most importantly, I committed to lose some weight and keep it off. I put $500 at risk a week and you can see the results in the following graph:

The upper blue line shows my “Goal Weight”, the weight that I can’t exceed without losing money. The red-line is my daily weight. For the first time in several attempts, I’ve stopped the yo-yoing. So far, I’ve lost the weight and it hasn’t cost me a penny.

I have hopes that StickK will be an engine for finding out what kind of incentives work the best and for whom.


Before I got tenure at my first job, I was worried about my habit of not finishing papers quickly enough. I tried to enlist a colleague in a scheme whereby I would pay him

$2,500 * (X-Y) * 1(Y<=X),

where X was my target number of papers submitted by some date and Y was the number I actually submitted.

My University of Chicago-trained senior colleague demurred, to my great shock on the grounds that he'd feel badly if I had to pay him!

Anyhow, great idea, Ian!

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