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Ulysses Pact Ulysses Pact

Ulysses Pact

What are your goals? You might want to eat healthier, do more exercise, save money, get that project done, or a range of other admirable outcomes. The problem is that, in the future, you won’t have the same commitment, which is why you might want to start experimenting with this model. A Ulysses Pact, or Commitment Device, is a voluntary decision to define and limit your future choices so that you can achieve your desired results.  THREE LEVERS BEHIND YOUR PACT.  The name 'Ulysses Pact' is inspired by the famous story of Ulysses tying himself to the mast of his ship to avoid the hypnotic power of the siren's song (see Origins below for more). Also known as Ulysses Contract or Commitment Device, it involves 'tying' your future self to the choices you want. Researchers generally agree on three main levers to achieve this:  Alter the friction: make the alternative choices for your future self harder, with more obstacles, or the desired choice easier. This approach aligns with the EAST Framework.  Public commitment: make a public announcement and put your reputation on the line amongst your peers. Focus your public commitment on actions rather than outcomes - see the Limitations section below for more.  Increase the stakes: put your money on the line through a bet, contract, or another method to ensure you are effectively motivated.  WHAT THIS MIGHT LOOK LIKE.  Here are some options for how you can introduce Ulysses Pacts in your life: :  Want to start a business or create a commercial project? Pre-sell or crowdfund the idea so you are committed to delivering it to an expectant audience.  Want to give up smoking? Put money aside each month and, after six months, allow a friend (or enemy) to keep the money if you’ve smoked over that period. Perhaps consider using a nicotine test so that you can’t cheat.  Want to snack less after dinner? Brush your teeth with minty toothpaste right after your meal.  Want to stick to your budget? Destroy your credit cards, do one online order for groceries and then only keep a pre-determined amount of cash out for the week.  Want to exercise more? Pay upfront for a gym membership so future visits are free.  Still want to do more exercise? Book in times to exercise with friends or other people, or even join a team sport.  Want to meet a deadline? Use a Forcing Function by organising a presentation or launch to limit your time. Want to stop sleeping in? Set up a loud alarm clock in another room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.  Want to watch less online? Purchase an app to block screen usage on devices at certain times.  Want to save more? Set up automatic payments from your wages/ income to an account that you can’t touch.  Want to do that other thing? Bet someone a significant amount of money that you will.  Ulysses Pacts are also an option for people with health issues. For example, in a mental health context, a person might use what’s commonly known as a Ulysses Contract to consent to treatment in advance, knowing that their cognitive abilities might be impaired at the time when they need that treatment. In the context of chronic alcoholism, people sometimes use Disulfiram, a medication that makes the ethanol in any alcoholic drink make them feel nauseous.  IN YOUR LATTICEWORK.  Ulysses Pacts have many connections across behavioural science-themed models in your latticework. Temptation Bundling could be described as a form of Ulysess Pact, particularly when you enforce a limited ‘pay off’ or reward linked to your desired behaviour. Parkinson's Law often references Forcing Functions to limit time investment which is also a sort of Ulysess Pact. The EAST Framework has already been noted as an effective way that you can experiment with altering friction. Finally, in terms of designing higher stakes, you might want to consider Loss Aversion and use more short term ‘stick’ over long term ‘carrot’. 

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