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. 
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