How to achieve your goals using forcing functions - Deepstash
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What is a forcing function?

It's a mechanism that forces you to work towards your goal.

Personal example: Becoming conversational in Spanish

  • I have to attend Spanish class every day on Lingoda in order to get back my money
  • I moved to Colombia to practice my Spanish through daily activities like grocery shopping or taking public transport


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Features of an effective forcing function

  • Stakes-based accountability: The pain you feel from thinking about losing the stake will propel you to take action
  • Requiring consistency instead of motivation: Make showing up consistently—on schedule—a requirement

Personal Example:

  • The money I paid for Lingoda Spanish classes is substantial (high stakes), so it's painful to lose.
  • The pain propels me to show up for class even when I don't feel like it.
  • BUT: Living in Colombia doesn't require consistency in speaking Spanish (Google Translate exists), and is thus less effective


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Potential Negative Side Effects of Forcing Functions

  • 😵‍💫 Overwhelm. I clammed up on my first day in Colombia whenever a local tried to converse with me in Spanish. When I got home, I also started panicking about how I’m going to survive the next four months with so little knowledge of Spanish.
  • ✈️ Slipping into Autopilot Mode. During finals, I went through the motions of attending my Lingoda classes. I stopped preparing for each class and didn’t review the class content or my Lingoda instructors’ feedback.


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Don't let side effects/discomfort stop you from trying!

A forcing function is just one of the many tactics you can use to achieve your goals. They’re effective, but they can also be uncomfortable if the difficulty level or stakes are too high.

If the forcing function is overwhelming, adjust it:

  • work on a smaller goal/milestone/project first
  • reduce the frequency slightly
  • focus on showing up consistently, not how much you’ve achieved in a particular instance


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If you liked what you've read...

I find life-tweaking ideas for designing and living an intentional life.

For every concept I discover, I strive to find examples and stories from my own life. This newsletter issue was inspired by my goal to become conversational in Spanish!

I also brew these ideas into Tea For Thought, my weekly newsletter. Come learn with me :)


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Developer of solutions, people, and self / Living in 7 countries in 4 years of CS undergrad at Minerva University / Intentional living newsletter 👇🏼


A technique I discovered for goal achievement when trying to become conversational in Spanish.

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