Use Self-Contracts to Boost Your Willpower

Changing your habits often requires more than just motivation and willpower.

One powerful tool to enhance your commitment and accountability is the use of self-contracts.

A self-contract is a written agreement you make with yourself, committing to a specific behaviour or goal.

This formal declaration of your intentions can significantly increase your chances of success by providing structure, accountability, and a clear path forward.

In this guide, we explore the concept of self-contracts, their benefits, how to create them, and practical tips for using them to achieve your health and weight loss goals.

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What are self-contracts?

A self-contract is a personal agreement that outlines your commitment to a specific goal or behaviour. It serves as a tangible reminder of your intentions and provides a structured framework to help you stay focused and accountable. Key components of a self-contract include:

  • Goal definition. Clearly stating what you aim to achieve.
  • Action plan. Outlining the steps you will take to reach your goal.
  • Consequences. Specifying positive and negative consequences for following through or failing to meet your commitments.
  • Signature and date: Treating the contract as a formal agreement by signing and dating it.

The importance of self-contracts

Self-contracts are crucial for several reasons:

  • Enhanced commitment. Writing down your goals and action plans reinforces your commitment and increases your determination to follow through.
  • Accountability. A self-contract holds you accountable to yourself, providing motivation to stick to your commitments.
  • Structure and clarity. The process of creating a self-contract helps clarify your goals and the steps needed to achieve them.
  • Motivation. Positive consequences provide motivation to stick to your plan, while negative consequences serve as deterrents to falling off track.
  • Behaviour change. Self-contracts can help you develop new habits and behaviours by providing a clear and structured path to follow.

How to create an effective self-contract

Define your goal

Start by clearly defining your goal. Be specific about what you want to achieve and ensure it is realistic and attainable.

Example: “I will lose 10 pounds in the next three months by exercising three times a week and following a balanced diet.”

Outline your action plan

Break down your goal into actionable steps. Outline the specific actions you will take to achieve your goal.

Example: “I will attend a fitness class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I will prepare healthy meals on Sundays to last me through the week.”

Specify consequences

Include both positive and negative consequences in your self-contract. Positive consequences reward you for sticking to your plan, while negative consequences provide a deterrent for not following through.

Example: “If I follow my exercise and diet plan for the week, I will reward myself with a new book. If I fail to stick to my plan, I am not allowed to buy any new clothes for a month.”

Set a timeline

Establish a clear timeframe for achieving your goal. This creates a sense of urgency and prompts consistent action.

Example: “I will review my progress every Sunday for the next three months.”

Sign and date

Treat your self-contract as a formal agreement by signing and dating it. This reinforces your commitment and provides a tangible reminder of your intentions.

Example: “Signed, [Your Name], Date: [Today’s Date]”

Examples of self-contracts

Here are some examples of self-contracts for various health and weight loss goals:

Healthy eating

  • Goal: “I will eat at least five servings of vegetables each day for the next month.”
  • Action plan: “I will include a serving of vegetables with each meal and have vegetable snacks available.”
  • Consequences: “If I meet my goal, I will treat myself to a spa day. If I fail, I will skip my weekly movie night.”

Exercise

  • Goal: “I will exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, for the next two months.”
  • Action plan: “I will alternate between walking, swimming, and yoga classes.”
  • Consequences: “If I stick to my plan, I will buy myself a new pair of shoes. If I don’t, I will do an extra 15 minutes of exercise the following week.”

Hydration

  • Goal: “I will drink at least eight glasses of water each day for the next six weeks.”
  • Action plan: “I will carry a water bottle with me and set reminders on my phone to drink water.”
  • Consequences: “If I achieve my goal, I will enjoy a weekend away. If I fall short, I will volunteer for an hour at a local charity.”

Tips for successful self-contracts

  1. Be specific. Clearly define your goals and action plans. The more specific your contract, the easier it will be to follow and measure your progress.
  2. Make it realistic. Ensure your goals are realistic and attainable. Setting overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and decreased motivation.
  3. Include positive and negative consequences. Balance your contract with both rewards and deterrents. This approach provides motivation to stick to your plan and consequences to keep you accountable.
  4. Review regularly. Regularly review your self-contract to assess your progress and make any necessary adjustments. This keeps you on track and allows you to celebrate your successes.
  5. Stay flexible. Be open to adjusting your goals and action plans as needed. Life can be unpredictable, and flexibility helps you stay committed even when circumstances change.

Self-contract challenges and how to overcome them

While self-contracts can be highly effective, they may also present challenges. Here are some common obstacles and how to overcome them:

  • Challenge: Lack of motivation
    • Solution: Start with small, manageable goals and gradually increase the complexity as you build confidence and motivation. Celebrate small wins to boost your morale.
  • Challenge: Forgetting your commitments
    • Solution: Keep your self-contract in a visible location, such as on your fridge or bathroom mirror. Set reminders on your phone to review your contract regularly.
  • Challenge: Inconsistent follow-through
    • Solution: Establish routines and habits that make it easier to follow through with your commitments. Schedule specific times for your action plans and stick to them.
  • Challenge: Negative self-talk
    • Solution: Practise positive self-talk and remind yourself of your progress and achievements. Surround yourself with supportive people who encourage and motivate you.

Final thoughts

Self-contracts are a powerful tool for enhancing commitment, accountability, and motivation in your health and weight loss journey.

By clearly defining your goals, outlining actionable steps, and specifying positive and negative consequences, you create a structured framework to support your efforts.

Remember to be specific, realistic, and flexible in your self-contracts, and regularly review and adjust them as needed.

With the right approach, self-contracts can help you stay on track, overcome challenges, and achieve lasting success. Start creating your self-contracts today and take the first step towards a healthier, happier you.

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