Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Ultimate Accountability

A while back, maybe a year or so ago I saw an episode of PRIMETIME on ABC. They were doing some experiments regarding something called "game theory". I don't really understand game theory but what they did was fascinating. First they dropped off several pairs of strangers all over New York City. They gave them only one instruction. Find another pair. Sounds crazy right? None of the people knew each other, none of them knew their partners but they had the challenge of finding another pair somewhere in the city. Guess how many of the pairs found another pair...are you ready for this?...ALL OF THEM. Can you believe that? They all found other pairs. Basically, they all had similar strategies:

What is a major meeting place in NYC ?(1/2 picked the Empire State Building, 1/2 picked Times Square)

What is a good meeting time? (several decided on noon)

How do we stand out and help someone find us? (Many went and bought supplies and made signs)

Anyway, I thought this was crazy. They all ended up going to either the Empire State Building or Times Square with signs and whistles and things and waited for another pair to show. By noon, all pairs had completed the task and they had started from all over the place. The whole thing was done so that people could study game theory and strategies by observing what the participants did. What does this have to do with accountability?

The second part of the show was about weight loss. They took about 20 people who wanted to lose at least 25 pounds. They took pictures of them (blurred of course) in spandex. They gave them no diet or exercise plan. They simply told them, lose 25 pounds in 60 days or we will show your spandex photo on national television. These people knew what they were getting into and they all signed up. Guess how many lost the weight? ALL BUT ONE! Crazy! The one who didn't had gotten really sick at some point. But really, this is the most effective diet plan ever. It had a 96% success rate. Do you know any other diet plan with that kind of success rate? The idea with game theory here was that people will react to a "credible threat". The key to success is that they have to believe that the consequences WILL happen. We see this with our children. We will get obedience if our threats are credible. If my child believes that I will really take away her favorite toy if she throws it again, she will stop. Of course, children always test your credibility from time to time. Once they find out the threat is credible, it becomes effective. Consequently reward works almost the same way. Boy, could I go down a rabbit trail about discipline here but anyway...back to weight loss.

Last year I thought about this alot and asked Jeff, "How can we create a credible threat so that I will actually exercise and lose weight?" He came up with an idea. If I didn't lose 15 pounds (because I wanted to ladies, not at his request) by spring break, he would tell all my friends that I...ha, ha, like I'm going to tell you, just imagine something really stupid I did. It was something he thought was funny and I thought was embarrasing and I knew he would follow through. So we agreed. I weighed and the challenge of avoiding embarrassment began. I DID IT. I lost the weight! Next on the agenda was keeping it off. We renegotiated. Okay, I had to keep it off until our trip to Destin in June or same thing, he would tell my friends that I...still not going to tell you. I DID IT AGAIN. I kept the weight off! But...

...then summer went on, we were out of town a lot and the threat was gone. We took several vacations and all involved great dining. There's a joke in our family that if someone is eating a lot you ask, "What, are you on vacation?" Needless to say, the weight (+5) is all back. (See post on Gluttony) What to do?

I'm thinking of photographing myself in spandex (I'm trying not to gag) and entrusting it to a friend who will post it if I don't take it off and keep it off. It was the ULTIMATE ACCOUNTABILITY before. It worked. What do you think? Anyone want to trade spandex shots?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yikes! That's really scary...but you know I bet it really work! Maybe I'll just keep watching your blog and see if any spandex pictures appear. That was a really interesting theory...