Making a Public Commitment

As we have discussed previously, the behavior-analytic, or ABC, framework says that behavior is a function of its antecedents and its consequences:

A : B –> C

When we behave in the presence of certain cues, or antecedents (A), and that behavior (B) produces consequences (C), those consequences will make the behavior more likely (reinforcers) or less likely (punishers) to occur the next time those cues are present.

For example, if your phone rings and you notice it’s your friend calling (A), answering the phone (B) will likely produce a conversation (C). If the conversation is pleasant (or reinforcing), you’ll be more likely to answer the phone the next time your friend calls. If, however, the conversation is unpleasant (or punishing), you might be less likely to take his call the next time around.

We have also discussed the process of self-management, which entails systematically identifying and altering the antecedents and consequences that affect our own behavior.

This process of self-management entails “the 3 Ms”:

  1. Modifying your environment
  2. Measuring your behavior
  3. Making a public commitment

Modifying your environment means changing the things around you that affect your behavior. the outcome of which is (hopefully) less undesired and more desired behavior. Measuring your behavior means keeping track of when a particular behavior occurs, which allows you to determine whether your behavior-change efforts are working.

The third M of self-management—making a public commitment—lets you tap into one of the most powerful parts of your environment: other people.

Humans are social creatures. From the time we are born, we depend on others to survive. In fact, research on the topic of loneliness has shown that social isolation can have not just a negative psychological impact, but also a negative physical impact, one that rivals smoking and obesity.

Some of the most powerful antecedents and consequences in our environments are those provided by other people. In fact, antecedents and consequences provided by others often have a greater impact on our behavior than “non-social” antecedents and consequences.

For example, a stern look from a loved one or a coy smile from that attractive person in the coffee shop can be a very powerful antecedent (cue) to behave a particular way. Likewise, a hug from a loved one or a sincere compliment from your boss can be a powerful reinforcer that increases the future likelihood of whatever behavior produced the positive outcome.

Knowing that social antecedents and consequences have a powerful effect on our behavior, we should try as much as possible to incorporate them into our behavior-change programs.

And one way to do this is by making a public commitment.

Making a public commitment adds accountability to the equation. It lets others know what you’re doing: what behavior you’re trying to change, what your goals are, and so on.

And this allows them to become a part of your environment—a part of the antecedents and consequences that can positively impact your behavior.

For example, if others know you’re trying to exercise more, they might help out by sending you a motivational text (an antecedent) on the mornings you’re planning to go to the gym. They could also call you after you’ve worked out and tell you what a great job you’re doing pursuing your health goals (a reinforcing consequence).

Or you could go even further by working directly with friends who are pursuing similar goals. Maybe you and a couple friends all want to spend more time working on various aspects of your businesses. You could have a network in which each of you is able to track your friends’ progress, encourage them if they’re falling behind, and provide positive feedback when they hit a daily goal.

And this, in fact, is what Gale allows you to do.

It allows you to invite and connect with others who are pursuing similar goals and who can provide the social support that has such a big impact on our behavior.