Have you struggled to stay consistent with your goals? You're good for a while, but then after maybe two or three weeks, you suddenly lose sight of them and momentum falls away?
I'd always be good in short timeframes but when my motivation dropped off so did my habits. That's when I realized I had to bring in insights from science about human nature to maximize the chance for hitting my goals.
Your likelihood of procrastination can be broken down into a simple equation: (Value x Expectancy) / (Impulsivity x Delay). The greater the value you place on something and the more you expect to achieve that goal, the less likely you are to procrastinate. The more impulsive you are and the more likely you are to delay, the more likely you are to procrastinate.
We are social animals - it’s wired into our DNA to help us survive. We’re also loss averse and prefer to avoid losing $100 than to gain that same $100. Most of the time, the fear of being judged and fear of failure that comes from these dynamics holds us back - but you can actually use it to help you achieve your goals.
Research shows that if you create a monetary penalty for not hitting a goal, with a friend or an accountability partner, you will be 3x more likely to achieve it. I've applied this successfully in a community of entrepreneurs - I have to complete a peak performance daily routine at least 60% of the time or I lose $1000.
Have you ever gotten super frustrated with not being able to achieve any goals that you've set for yourself or your company, or maybe goals or collaborations that you've done with your friends or family or team? And you're just not hitting them. You keep failing, they keep falling to the wayside. You're good for a while, but then after maybe two, three weeks, you suddenly lose sight of them, lose your momentum. Maybe you've set new year's resolutions and you're great until maybe the end of January come February. You forgot what you even sent your resolutions on. I mean, I used to experience all of this as well. I had a lot of difficulty with sticking with goals for a long period of time, making them really stick and experiencing the results over an extended time period.
I'd be really, really good with stuff in a short timeframe, but after a month or two of those goals, those habits, those new routines that I was trying to build, fell to the wayside. Then I realized that I wasn't bringing science and human biology into the picture enough to maximize the chance for hitting my goals.
And this was the result. What I'm about to share with you. This is a result of having really gone all-in on the area of high performance, peak performance, reading hundreds of books, and completing a couple of coaching certifications in high performance, really trying to understand the nitty-gritty of behavioral science. What we're trying to do here is three times your chance of hitting your goals.
One of the first things that I came across was something called "The Procrastination Equation". And this is a FA, it's a book, and it's a fascinating piece of research. And basically, the way "The Procrastination Equation" is set up, is that our likelihood of procrastinating is dependent upon a simple equation.
We have the value of whatever the task or the goal is. And our minds, times the expectancy - our belief in our ability to achieve it - that's our numerator over a denominator, which is our impulsivity. I'll explain what that means in a moment, times our delay. So we want to maximize the numerator. We want to maximize the value of whatever this goal is and our expectancy, our belief that we can do it, and we want to minimize the denominator. So we want to minimize our impulsivity, our likelihood to get distracted with whatever this thing is, and also minimize the delays.
The delay is how long it takes for us to have a taste or experience of success. So by value, what do we mean by that? If you want to maximize value, what do you need to do? Well, you need some time. You need to take some time and think about, why is this important to me? What are the benefits that I would experience, not just the benefits for you, but if you were to extend those benefits to others around you, who are important to you as well, what benefits might they also experience - how valuable could this be for you? And how can you make it more valuable by focusing on the why and focusing on the benefits for you and others when it comes to expectancy? What you need to think about here is what are all the reasons to believe that you can achieve this?
Think about past hardships, which may or may not be related that you overcame; pass goals that you achieve. What is it similar to? Who are people in your network that you could perhaps reach out to that could lend a hand and give you some advice on how to achieve that goal? Is there knowledge or resources or courses you could take to build up your belief and be able to achieve whatever you're trying to work against?
Then we get to the denominator, right? So we have your impulsivity. Now, what that is, is your likelihood of being distracted when working on a said goal, whatever that may be now. If you know that this particular goal has a likelihood of distraction as high, you really want to know this ahead of time.
Let's say your goal is doing something really dull and boring, like completing your expenses or filing your tax return. For example, maybe you're doing that at the very start of your day while your energy is highest because working on something so dull like that later in the day, when your energy is less, is gonna make you very, very prone to being distracted or being impulsive and starting to jump around to something else.
Or maybe because of the type of project or the goal, if it's something where you feel like you're going to be quite impulsive and again, want to jump around and do other things, maybe you have to bring other people into the picture to help you work on it, to maintain your focus. And then there's wanting to minimize impulsivity. And then there's the delay side of this denominator in the equation here. So with delay, as human beings, we want to feel good about getting something right now, rather than sometime in the future.
If it's going to take too long for you to experience some positive momentum with whatever this goal is, then your likelihood of procrastinating. Your likelihood then of not achieving this goal is going to go up. We want to minimize the delay. We want to bring it closer to us. So how can you take whatever your goal is and chunk it down further and give yourself a taste of success sooner rather than later? That's the first way in which you can significantly increase your odds of hitting a goal - by really getting into the science of procrastination. And then equally on the flip side of that, what motivates us to increase the value to yourself, increase your expectancy in being able to do it, minimize the impulsivity or your likelihood of being distracted when working on this? Whatever the goal may be - minimize the delay time, get a taste of success sooner rather than later.
Now here's the other interesting thing that you can do to really skyrocket your goal achievement. And this is all about tapping into our human DNA. Two things with our human DNA: one, we are social beings, right? We want to be around others. And then number two, we're loss-averse. So what that means is that people are more likely to want to avoid losing a hundred dollars than say gaining a hundred dollars. So why is this? Why are we so social and why are we loss-averse or aversed to losing things? Well, because it's designed in our DNA to protect our species, right? We're not the strongest animal out there within the animal kingdom. We need to stick together. To protect ourselves. So we're social beings, right? And then also from a survival point of view, it's much more worrisome to lose, say, food or shelter or things that are necessary for our survival, than gain something new.
So you can hack into this to increase your chances of hitting your goals. By the first point, try to find an accountability partner, who's somebody that you could report to keep score with, say on a weekly or a daily basis, that knows what you're trying to achieve, that you can bring into the picture. You can try to be social with someone else. But then here's a really fascinating thing when it comes to loss aversion - instead of focusing on what you just want to gain with the goal you need to build in, what are you going to lose for not hitting the goal? And this is really gonna help you three times your chance of hitting your goals. This is proven - a group of behavioral scientists from Yale University has done a ton of research on the subject of how using loss aversion can actually help people gain the goals that they're seeking in life.
And all you have to do is put some money on the line, an amount that's going to sting, whereby if you don't complete the goal or do that routine, or do that habit, you're going to lose money - maybe to your accountability partner, or you're going to have to donate it to maybe something that you wouldn't even want to donate it towards to make it even more painful.
I'll give you a quick story of how I've used this in my own life. There are a set of behaviors that I know if I follow on a daily basis, for me, will tend to equate to a peak performing or a top-performing day. And those behaviors are, or those outcomes that I'm seeking, are getting eight hours of sleep. Making sure I do a certain amount of deep work before 7:30 AM each day. I tend to start my days early, but I also go to bed very early.
I'm asleep by like 9:00 PM, 9:30 PM. Making sure I exercise by 8:30 AM, shutting down my day properly by 7:30 PM. And then making sure that I practice a digital sunset, and shut off all the electronics by 8:30 PM. Now, this is something that's currently working for me at this moment. And these things might not work for you, but I'm just illustrating. That's what I'm doing to try to create a bit more peak performance in my life, especially at a time when I have a big, big goal list, some big ambitions I'm trying to achieve at the moment. Now, when I was trying to follow that routine without an accountability partner, without putting money on the line, my success rate of following the routine was only 20%, but the moment I had an accountability partner and the moment I put some money on the line, I picked a crazy sum that I would not risk.
The sum I picked was a thousand dollars. I said, "If I don't hit 60% of my days following this routine, I'm going to donate a thousand dollars to this group". It's a group that I'm a part of and an entrepreneur group. And there's no way I'm going to lose $1,000. I'm not going to lose a thousand dollars a week, let alone $52,000 in a year - I don't have that money to lose, right? So by having an accountability partner and putting some money on the line, suddenly my hit rate on that peak performance routine, because I was tapping into human beings as social beings and us being averse to losing something, went from 20% to 60% of the days. And sometimes even 80% with ease - it's happening without pain.
I'm just doing it. So think about all of this. If you really want three times your chance of hitting your goals, are you really engineering yourself to fight procrastination using that equation? You're maximizing the value of what you're trying to achieve, maximizing your expectancy, and being able to do it, minimizing your likelihood of being impulsive or distracted when working on it, minimizing the delay to getting that first taste of success. Do you have an accountability partner, somebody that you can partner up with? And I'd say probably most important of all the real game-changers is to put some money on the line for not achieving it, make it burn, make it sting, and see your results skyrocket.