In the olden days, lawbreakers were put in the stocks in the public square so everyone in the village could walk by and take part in their humiliation. Nowadays, we practice a similar punishment when we publish the names of prostitution solicitors and drunk drivers in the newspaper: We know that humiliation can be a great deterrent.
It works in reverse, too. Making a public commitment about something positive can help hold us to it. Not only do we constantly have people asking, “So how’s it going with (blank)?” We also face the fear of public failure if we don’t carry through with what we said we’d do.
There are all sorts of ways to make your goal public, including:
1.    Tell everyone you know what you’re working towards. This will keep your mind on the project as well as give you a huge cheering section.
2.    Add a line at the bottom of your email signature, charting your progress (“I’ve lost 15 lbs. 38 to go!”). It mind sound a little cheesy, but it works.
3.    Join a support group. If you can’t find one in your area, check out Internet-based special interest groups. Google Groups, Yahoo! Groups, and Facebook are all great places to check.
4.    Put a “thermometer” in a public place (on the refrigerator, in the break room at work, on your website, etc.). It works for the local elementary school, so why not you?
5.    Create a blog to track your progress. This is the secret behind the blockbuster movie and bestselling book, “Julie and Julia,” which began as a blog, as did Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.”
6.    Encourage people to ask you about your goal – and don’t get nasty when they ask you how you’re doing and you have nothing new to report!
The key to public accountability is the threat of being exposed in public. Being shunned from the group is a primal fear, leftover from the days when outcasts literally died because of their isolation. While we don’t face the same degree of risk, no one likes to be the one who’s seen as a failure.
If you are one of the few who is immune to others’ thoughts and opinions, this method might not work very well for you. But if you are like most of us and care deeply about being held in high regard, then the threat of public humiliation – even just online – might be the kick in the pants you need to make your dreams a reality. 
Earlier in a blog post, I asked you to take a look at your goals to see if they were big enough or too big, if they were yours or someone else’s, and if they were really your burning desires. All those are important, but even more important is your “Why” behind your goals.
Why do you want to lose 50 lbs.?
Why do you want to get your counseling degree?
Why do you want to declutter your house, start your own business, quit smoking, find a new job?
The deal is, if your “Why” is big enough, the goal doesn’t really matter. The obstacles don’t matter. You’re going to barrel through and get it done. By the same token, if your “Why” is lukewarm, you’re going to be missing a key part of your motivation for success.
Who’s going to be more likely to start their own successful business: The single mom who has two kids to feed and no safety net to fall back on, or the independently wealthy trust-fund baby? I’d bet on the mom every time, and here’s why: She is going to fight tooth and nail to keep those kids fed and clothed and safe. The trust-fund baby doesn’t have his or her back against the wall – at least not for financial reasons.
You may not be facing the same survival-level motivation, but other “Why’s” can work, too. Here are some that I’ve seen drive people on to incredible feats. Imagine what goals go with these “Why’s:”
  • To prove to my father I’m not a loser.
  • To make my ex regret leaving me.
  • To keep my kids in private school.
  • So I’m not embarrassed on our vacation.
  • So I’ll live longer.
  • To make my family proud.
  • To keep my kids out of day care.
  • To pay for the college of my choice.
  • To keep my mom in her nursing home.
  • To impress people.


Whether you’re trying to save money or lose weight or start a new business, if you want it bad enough at an emotional level, you’ll do what it takes. So spend some time digging into your own “Why.” Go beyond the obvious, and ask yourself again and again why this goal matters, not just in and of itself, but for your life. You might be surprised at the answer – and it might be just what you need to get you moving.