The Scoop: Dating comes with its own set of challenges, but having honed dating habits can make the journey a lot easier. StickK is an app designed to help people set their goals and meet them, whether they’re striving to improve their careers, health, or relationships. Singles can use StickK to make a commitment to pursuing dating, get their friends involved in keeping them accountable, and set short-term milestones to achieve long-term goals. 

Quitting a bad habit isn’t easy. Forming a good one might be even more difficult.

If you want to change your bad habits, the first step is to understand why we make habits and why negative ones can be hard to break . Neuroscience research has helped us learn about the three-step behavior-triggering process that forms habits.

A habit, or a subconscious pattern of behavior, includes three steps: a trigger, the behavior, and then a reward. The trigger tells your brain it’s time for the expected behavior, which is followed by a reward that cements the trigger-behavior order in our brains.

The problem with stopping or starting a habit is that our unconscious brains take over during this loop. Our habits simply happen, often without us even realizing it. If your habits are causing you to get stuck in an unpleasant dating loop, your romantic life will suffer the consequences.

Making or breaking a habit takes time and effort. Jordan Goldberg is the co-founder of stickK, a data-driven app designed to help people set goals and stick to them. 

He talked to us about the inspiration behind the app and the diverse collection of resources that went into creating a tool for breaking even the trickiest of habits.

“The problem is there is a disagreement between your short-term self and your long-term self. The long-term self wants to be happy and healthy in old age and have great and secure relationships,” Jordan said.

He continued, “When we created stickK, we were thinking about how to close that intention-behavior gap. We chose a structure built around incentives and accountability.”

The Science Behind Breaking– or Making– a Habit

Jordan founded stickK with Dean Karlan and Ian Ayres, two professors he knew from business school.

Dean and Ian brought diverse academic and professional backgrounds to stickK. Dean is a Professor of Economics and Finance at Northwestern University and the co-director of the Global Poverty Research Lab. Ian is a lawyer, economist, and the William K. Townsend Professor at Yale Law School.

Jordan told us, “They’re both renowned behavioral economists and have done a lot of studies in behavior change, specifically with respect to incentive design and accountability.”

The driving inspiration behind stickK was their shared success with breaking habits by making contracts. Dean’s interest in forming good habits started in graduate school when he and a friend decided they wanted to lose weight.

habit cycle
Commitment contracts add accountability to the journey of breaking or making a habit.

They had nearly 60 pounds of desired weight loss between them and put a significant monetary sum on the line if they didn’t meet the goal. At first, the two weren’t making progress because they kept renegotiating the terms and the deadline of the contract.

Realizing the weak point, Dean and his friend added a clause to their contract: Any attempt to renegotiate would result in an immediate forfeit. 

Dean and his friend were at their goal weights within a year.

Ian found success in weight loss after entering into a commitment contract. This contract stipulated that Ian would pay $500 each week if he failed to make planned progress toward his weight loss goal. The commitment contract required a referee to help Ian stay accountable.

Soon, Dean and Ian took the approach that worked so well for them to the public. stickK gives people with any kind of goal a tested and reliable way to meet it. 

“We run the gamut, from health and wellness to financial well-being,” Jordan said. “Personal relationships, career development – you name it, we’ve seen it on stickK.”

An App for Singles Who Want to stickK to Dating 

Our habits influence our personal relationships, especially the most intimate ones. Partners who live together interact with each other as a daily routine. Couples who live apart may send a quick text or call throughout the day to check in. These small acts do a lot to nurture relationships.

If you’re single, your habits will affect your dating life and relationship success. Whether you’re a chronic ghoster, self-saboteur, or are having a hard time finding the time and confidence to step into dating, identifying a clear goal is the first step to overcoming negative habits.

“The stickK approach is based on the principles of loss aversion,” Jordan explained. “The threat of losing something is actually more powerful and motivating than the lure of gaining something you never had. The threat of losing the $20 in your pocket is more motivating than the lure of gaining $20 you never had.”

stickk loss aversion
stickK’s approach is based on the concept of loss aversion.

stickK raises the price of the undesired behavior. “The problem is the gap between your short-term self and your long-term self. The long-term self wants to be happy and healthy in old age and have great and secure relationships,” Jordan said.

He continued, “But sometimes the short-term self wants to cancel the date or eat a cheeseburger. The behavioral science comes into play when we raise the immediate price of poor decision-making. We want to experience the consequences in real time.”

stickK can help daters align their long-term goals with their short-term actions. “If your goal is to message ten people on a dating app each week, or to set up one coffee date each week, the idea is to put the amount of money on it that’s too painful for you to not comply with it,” Jordan said.

The second layer of stickK’s approach is social accountability. “There’s a referee, and then there’s supporters,” Jordan said. “The referee is a singular individual who’s responsible for confirming the accuracy of your reports each week. Use intuition to choose your referee.”

Referees and support network members can get involved in the process through stickK. 

“The support network is the larger group of family and friends that can help you along the way, and there’s strength in numbers,” Jordan said. “We see a correlation between the quantity and quality of the engagement of the support network and success rates.”

The Power of Changing Your Behavior

stickK offers a unique approach for singles who are ready to stay true to their dating commitments. The app can give daters the extra kick they need to keep their goal as the motivator of their actions, and it is likely an approach most singles haven’t tried before.

Many factors could prevent a person from achieving their dating goals. Some daters experience anxiety around dating. Some may feel great about online swiping and chatting but feel such intense nerves before a date that they cancel.

stickK helps you set goals and meet them.

Other singles may feel stress about online dating, which prevents them from looking into new apps and exploring options.

“A lot of people have difficulty taking that first step. So it’s important to not set goals focused on a certain outcome, but rather on a new or incremental behavior.,” Jordan said.

With stickK, users can set the goals that are important to them. If simply going on a date has been a challenge, a person’s goal could be to go on two dates each week. The odds are that each date will help build social skills and lessen the jitters.

“In the behavioral science world, what we say is that you’ve got to meet people where they are,” Jordan said. “If you’re at Point A, we’re not trying to get you to Point Z. We’re just trying to nudge you to the next step, and then take a breather, and then the next step. It all goes back to a tried-and-true method.”