Compose My Change Contract

Contracts are mutual, transparent agreements between you and a member of your change team that specifies what will transpire when you meet your goal behaviors. Such contracts are particularly useful for those of you who have trouble rewarding yourself and who are tempted to “cheat” if left to your own devices.

Contracts work best when they specify rules for the change team: “I pick the movie when I’m on track for a week” and “Tell me you’re proud when I reach an accomplishment toward my goal.” Considerable research indicates that such contingency contracts are quite beneficial when they are created in good faith.

Here’s a sample contract completed by my research assistant, Rory. His goal is to prepare for the GRE test, a glorified entrance exam for graduate school.

Rory’s Contract for Studying for the GRE’s

A contract between Rory and his parents.

I will study for the GRE’s one hour per day Monday through Saturday.

When I reach my daily goal, I may watch television that evening.

If I do not reach my daily goal of 1 hour, then I may not watch television that evening.

When I reach my weekly hours, then I can relax on Sunday and go fishing.

If for some reason I do not reach my weekly hours, then I will (1) make up the hour(s) on Sunday and (2) not go fishing.

When I reach a total of 20 hours, Mom will cook and serve me my favorite meal.

When I reach 50 hours, Dad will accompany me to an ice hockey game (go Flyers!)


Notice that Rory included tangible behaviors, well-defined parameters, and gradually increasing goals. Also notice how the list explicitly states that the goal must be met in order for rewards to be received.

To assist you in creating a contract of your own, we’ve created a blank form that will list what rewards will occur when you meet your goal behaviors. You can create several of these with different people or for different goals.

Our Change Contract for (specify goal here)

I (you) and (other party) enter into the following contract in order to promote behavior change. This contract will be reviewed thirty days from the date of signing, at which time it is subject to either being continued or renegotiated.

I (you) agree that I will perform the behaviors listed below in the manner set forth and described, and agree that should I violate the contract by failing to perform the behaviors listed below that I will be choosing to suffer the listed consequences.

By our agreeing to the terms and conditions of this behavioral contract, all parties accept that they are bound by the contract and are not free to vary from the terms and conditions.

(specify terms of the contract here; feel free to pattern your contract after Rory’s above)

When I reach my daily goal of , then .

If I do not reach my daily goal, then .

When I reach my weekly goal of , then .

If for some reason I do not reach my weekly goal, then .

You Other Party Date

Before you finish and print your contract, review the following checklist and revise your contract accordingly.

My contract: Yes No NA
is constructed by both parties
identifies, concretely and tangibly, the goal behavior(s)
allows for some exceptions under unforeseen circumstances
defines parameters (what is late, what is minimum standard, etc.)
includes rewards contingent on the goal
has rewards that are health-enhancing or positive
states that the rewards will not appear if goal is not met
provides for some mild punishment if goal not achieved
allows for the goal to be gradually increased over time
is written and/or signed by both parties
is publicly available to all effected parties

Be creative and varied in assigning rewards. You can even create a choice of rewards: “then husband will rub my feet for 15 minutes or prepare dinner, as I choose.” Sign the contract and give a copy to everyone involved or post it where both parties can see it.

By the way, some folks enjoy offering bonuses: Additional rewards for exceeding the minimum requirements of the contract. If that floats your boat, then by all means add it to the contract.

Other folks prefer a contract with an external group or organization. In that event, you can find online companies that will ask you to deposit money and then return a portion of that money contingent upon meeting the goal at an agreed-upon rate. Furthermore, you would permanently lose a portion of the deposited money if you do not reach the goal. One of our favorites for exercise and weight loss is

Though it may sound corny to establish rules and put them on paper, this method has proven to work time and time again. Reaching larger goals will be evidence of your self-change progress!