Have you ever struggled with making [and keeping] a promise to yourself?
Perhaps you promised yourself that you’d visit the gym after work three days this week, but you only filled your gym bag with sweaty clothes Wednesday night because you stayed at work late Monday night and stopped for froyo Friday night. Sunday rolled around, and you reflected on the previous week and felt remorseful for keeping the lights on at the office and consuming the extra sugary-deliciousness.
What if there was a way to have the proverbial cake… and eat it too?
Katy Milkman, a professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania thinks you can. She and her team of researchers call it “temptation bundling.” The idea is a simple one. You pair instant gratification activities (i.e. binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix, eating froyo, reading a good book, walking your cat) with behavior that provides long-term benefits (i.e. exercising, volunteering, answering overdue messages on Slack, building meaningful relationships). In other words, you bundle behaviors you are tempted to do with behaviors that you should do.
Milkman’s research found that people who used temptation bundling were 29% to 51% more likely to exercise when compared to a control group. Management Science published the team’s findings. The way I look at it, you’re solving two problems simultaneously. First, you engage in beneficial behaviors that require sacrifice and paying an upfront cost, but you receive long-term benefits. Second, the instant gratification behaviors provide a spike of enjoyment immediately, but you’ll reduce the likelihood of regret and indulging in activities that have long-term costs.
To determine how you can be a temptation bundler, answer this question. How often are you distracted by society’s recurring interruptions?
Wall Street is focused on short-term, quarterly profits. Mobile devices allow humans to expect a nearly instant response to messages. The TV-Industrial complex continually shows divisive and pessimistic stories. As a result, long-term gratification is becoming a more difficult choice. However, taking a long-term orientation to goal achievement is wildly important. Bundling the activities you are tempted to do with behaviors that you should do will serve as a repeatable practice to consistently complete tasks which are important, but not urgent. If you do this, you will easily stand out, separate yourself from the herd, and become indispensable.
To set a solid foundation for making and keeping promises, consider the following:
Know Your Personal Guiding Statements – it often takes my clients months to draft, re-draft, come to grips with, draft again, and then begin living their personal mission, vision, and brand statements. Living them will give you the ability to make choices that lead you to a higher levels of happiness. Dare I say, deliver happiness. Every organization has these statements; you’re the CEO of your brand, so should you.
Prioritize and Manage Your Time – in an instant gratification society, how you implement processes and focus on your priorities is key to your long-term happiness. Consider writing down, one, the immediate gratification pleasures you enjoy and, two, the tasks on which you often procrastinate. Pair items from each list and take action so you keep promises and move towards goal achievement.
Reward Yourself… Always – the journey to self-actualization is an unchartered path, be sure to find specific ways to reward yourself as you accomplish major milestones. We all prefer to receive appreciation differently. Maybe you’d like an afternoon of retail therapy? Quality time with loved ones? Or, receiving verbal, public praise? Be sure to have fun on the journey… not just when you arrive at the destination.
Would you like to be awesome at keeping promises? Do you have what it takes to be indispensable?
Sacrifice of yourself. Have fun. Think full. Live your guiding statements. Inspire and be inspired. Build relationships while eating froyo. Focus on the day-to-day discipline of achieving long-term gratification.
Bundle short and long-term temptations. Achieve your goals.
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