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Are New Year’s resolutions a sure way to send you into a depressive phase by the end of January? In general, New Year’s resolutions are a prime example of how bad we are at sticking to promises made to ourselves.

Why is it that it is so hard to stick to resolutions and reach personal goals?

For one I believe many resolutions or goals aren’t realistic. Even if they are realistic, simply setting a goal isn’t enough. You must split up the path to reaching your goal into many small steps; you must identify the possible pitfalls that could lead to failure and you must prepare for them, at least roughly; finally, you must take into account that things will change with time, hence your path or your goal may change and you must be willing to adapt in time.

Now, once you are ready to pursue your goals and make a commitment, there is one more thing you can do to motivate or put some more pressure onto yourself: tell others about it!

With stickK, you can make a contract with yourself, set the stakes, choose a referee and have friends or fellow stickKers support you. The service is based on economic and behavioral research showing that people are more likely to achieve a goal if they put something at stake, which will be lost in the case of failure. In the case of stickK that would be money.

You can select a preset from a list of common goals or create your custom commitment with the details being all up to you.

Setting the stakes is the interesting part, although it’s optional. If you decide to put money at stake, you are required to pay the full amount upfront directly to stickK. You will receive back incentives as you’re reaching your goal, and the total amount will be paid back as the commitment is completed. If you fail to reach your goal or parts of it, that money will go to a charity or anti-charity of stickK’s choice.

Frankly, I cannot recommend to put money at stake under these circumstances. The company has little reputation, apart from being founded by a Yale student and two of his professors. What bothers me is that they are choosing who will receive the money from a preset list of their choice, they are not handing out tax receipts (to minimize book keeping), they will subtract transaction fees, they will donate only a portion to supported charities at the end of each quarter, while the rest will go to stickK user sponsored and voted for (charity) events.

Overall, the FAQ sounds a bit fishy to me, and it’s clear that apart from financing the project with ads, they are also going to use the money in their favor, if only to let it gain interest. Quite obviously, a Yale professor for economics would be pretty stupid, if he didn’t make sure the money worked for them. But this is not mentioned in the FAQ. Also, if the money gains interest for up to three months, why do they still need to subtract the transaction fees and how much is that going to be?

My suggestion is to put something better than money at stake, for example annoying chores that you will complete for an unknowing individual under the supervision of your referee. Unfortunately, there is no way to add something like this to the contract, even if you create a custom goal.

Other than that I do recommend this service. Especially picking a friend or a family member as referee and gaining supporters from the community will help you go through with the commitment. If you make yourself accountable, you are increasing your chances of beating your weaker self.

What are your experiences with resolutions? What has helped you to set the right goals and achieve them? Please share in the comments.

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