Shame: Your New Best Friend

Last week I posted this on Facebook:

“First person to comment on this gets $20 if I don’t do 100 kettlebell swings at 5:30 tomorrow morning.”

Of course, one of my wonderful friends volunteered (because who wouldn’t?!). I told him not to expect the $20; he told me not to expect him to be awake at 5:30, and we had a deal.  If it’s not obvious, the next morning I followed through.

Why, though?  Because for two days I’d been sleeping an extra thirty minutes instead of attacking my kettlebell and the rest of my workout with the ferocity of a raccoon cornered in a dumpster full of doughnuts.  I wanted to stop.  Rather than relying on my irrational, sleep-fogged mind to make a decision at 5:30am, I removed the option with a little social pressure.

The great thing about evolution is that we have measurable neurological responses to our social groups – or even to our perception of what our social groups may be thinking of us.  So if I say “Hey guys, I’ve been lazy and I’m making a commitment to stop,” I have to follow through.  It’s a biological imperative.  If I didn’t follow through I would experience feelings of shame, guilt, and dishonesty (because I had promised).

The tool?

Use your evolutionary programming to move the needle.

The biology I reference above is our deep-seated need to be accepted by our social group.  Waaaaay back in the day, rejection meant death.  We formed tribes because we were safer in groups, and our groups had rules to increase that safety.  Act like a fool and you endanger the group.  Because of this, we developed feelings of shame and guilt to increase our likelihood of survival – these feelings usually make us toe the line.  We’re no longer in danger of sabertooth tiger attack, but this evolutionary programming lives on.

Using social media this way is just one example.  There are a few companies who have created platforms on which you place a bet on yourself which is donated to charity (or an anti-charity, such as the Nazi Party, etc) if you lose.  Fear of loss is a strong motivator, and if you add that to a social announcement you’ll greatly increase your chances of “winning.”

Read: winning at life.

Failure may just provide a financial loss, but if you’re feeling weak I would recommend that you add in the social pressure.  Make the public announcement “I have put $___ in an account that will be donated to XYZ anti-charity if I fail at my goal.  My friend, ________, will make sure I’m honest.”  Choose your most antagonistic friend for this job.

Then see what happens.

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