Lifestyle Trends

Posting your promises to elevate the stakes

By Stephanie Rosenbloom (New York Times)
Updated: 2011-02-13 08:23
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Posting your promises to elevate the stakes

A teenager known as glamourista16 confessed to the YouTube masses: "My friend got me addicted to chipotle and I cannot stop."

So began a nearly five-minute video about her resolution to stop indulging in fast food.

Thousands of these New Year's resolution videos were uploaded to YouTube. At the same time, Facebook, Twitter and other sites like 43Things are riddled with posts about promises to run marathons, learn Spanish and floss teeth.

Announcing your goals to the world may just seem like the latest cyber-narcissism, but it can be an effective motivator: economists say people who make their resolutions public are far more likely to fulfill them.

"It increases the price of failure," said Dean Karlan, an economics professor at Yale University.

That price can refer to the psychic or social cost of failing. But just in case that doesn't motivate you, there's, which puts an actual price on failure.

StickK was born of a simple behavioral economic principle: people are more likely to achieve their goals if they stake their reputations - or their bank accounts - on success. To use the site, the resolute enter their goals, put money on the line (entering credit card information up front, though it's charged only upon failure) and designate where the money will go if they don't succeed. Users might select a favorite charity or - for perverse added incentive - a charity they would never support. They then pick a person to be a referee and choose others as virtual cheerleaders.

There are more than 63,000 StickK contracts - and more than $5.9 million at stake. Peruse the site and you'll find perennial resolutions about exercise and money management, but also gems like "no more dating losers," "quit Dr Pepper" and "speak more slowly to foreigners in New York City."

Posting your promises to elevate the stakes

"There's a lot about pornography," added Professor Karlan, a founder of StickK along with Ian Ayres, a law professor at Yale, and Jordan Goldberg, a student at Yale School of Management.

Other sites cater to specific resolutions. For a would-be hard body, there's A procrastinating writer can go to Smokers have

Certainly, you don't need cyberspace to share your resolutions. But the potential humiliation of failure is more potent online. Social networking sites like Facebook also enable you to formalize and, in many cases, regularly track your goals.

Nearly every site makes it easy to tell friends about your ambitions as well as to help find strangers who share your goals. "Goals are such a personal thing," said Leezel Martin, 29, an office manager in San Diego who uses, a goal-listing site.

"It makes people feel vulnerable. A lot of my friends don't yet even know I'm on this site. You start getting judged."

More than 192,000 people have made public their resolutions for this year on 43Things, including Rick Steves, a travel writer and television personality, and Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Zappos.

Ms. Martin said putting her goals on the site is different from simply telling her friends. "Here on 43Things I have a community of people who are like-minded," she said. "Everyone just cheers you on."

Of all the ways to make your goals public, the least anonymous is video. "YouTube users are using it to reinforce the resolutions," said Kevin Allocca, the site's trends manager.

Many YouTube members said their resolution is to post even more videos. "Sometimes I'll go like six days without a video," Blair Fowler, 17, said on her resolutions video, under Juicy­Star07, which has been viewed more than 981,000 times.

The New York Times

(China Daily 02/13/2011 page10)