Paul Dundon’s Weblog

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A little cheese and a little whine

A rewarding new year

So, my life’s got badly out of balance over the last two years and my health is starting to suffer. I’ve made a bunch of new year’s resolutions about taking better care of myself and it’s all going well but I thought I’d take some advice from the experts and set some concrete, incremental goals and reward myself for accomplishing them. (See, eg, this chap.)

Which is great, isn’t it?

But herein lies the rub. Let’s say I want to make sure I do some exercise on 10 of the 31 days in January, and if I hit that goal, I’ll spend £10 on a hat (I don’t really want a hat, by the way. It’s a convoluted reference to the funeral scene in Hot Shots, where Tupper Harley hands over his life savings to the widow and she says “Thanks, with the millions I got from the life insurance, I can take this five thousand dollars and blow it all on hats.”)

Sorry. Okay, I’ve promised myself a nice hat if I hit my exercise goal for January. And if I don’t hit my goal then –

Well, what, exactly?

If I don’t buy the hat then the £10 will stay in the bank, or go to pay off a credit card, or something similar. And that means it will get spent, one way or another. And given I only buy things I like, the £10 is going to end up buying something I like, whether or not it’s the hat. And (thinking about it this way) buying the hat just means I have less money to buy something else I want at some other point. So really, if I reach my goal, I’m just buying the hat instead of something else I want, and that isn’t really much of a reward.

I mean, I’d probably go out buy the damn hat in March anyway.

Okay, so, what if I give the money to someone else, or to charity if I fail to reach my goal? No hats for lazy old Paul while there are children in Beverly Hills with eating disorders. The problem now is that, given I’m basically a charitable person, this gives me a positive incentive not to achieve my goals because a cause I care about will benefit from my failure (in fact, if one takes my commitment seriously under a utilitarian framework, it might even give me an obligation not to achieve my goals).

So what should I do? Spend the £10, if I fail to achieve my goal, on something I positively don’t want – the Joe McElderry single, perhaps, or a book by Ayn Rand? Or is there a better solution?

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Filed under: Psychology

4 Responses

  1. Michelle says:

    Perhaps give the money to something you strongly don’t believe in. Like the anti-gay lobbists. That way you will strongly work against failure.

  2. Elizabeth Dunn says:

    Reward yourself with cake. Add to the circularity of the argument that way

  3. Mike Walker says:

    I think you are spending far too much time at the computer thinking about this instead of getting your running shoes on~! ^^

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

My del.icio.us links

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