If you haven’t had the discipline to take regular action on something, it’s likely you’re just not intrinsically motivated in that area. No problem; an external incentive, like a coach or a monetary incentive, will get you started. After a while you’re brain gets used to the new behaviour – you form a habit.

Stake Something can coach you in this, and we recommend you put at least a small amount of money at stake every week. You forfeit the money if you don’t take your actions; it goes to charity. You’ll be amazed how reliable you suddenly become.

Like a charm. Risk activates the survival circuitry in your brain. That’s the circuitry most likely to prompt action.

On our limited data so far, people who stake a decent sum keep their promise 96% of the time. [Staking does not necessarily cost you money. You are using the threat of losing money as your incentive to act.]

It’s an honor system, so why not just lie and keep your money? Because what makes this work is the real threat of losing. If you cheat, your brain knows there’s no threat, and staking stops working. Allow for the possibility of losing and don’t freak out if you do. For most people who succeed, it’s part of the process. If you persist, you will get your result.

Stake Something partners with professional people who want to help their clients follow a program. Coaches are often health professionals, dieticians, fitness coaches, life coaches, business coaches or tutors.

To qualify they need to be earning the majority of their income through the profession or be spending the majority of their working time in that field.

You can find out more here.

Ben Raphael and Bret Treasure are the co-founders of Stake Something Pty Ltd. They are real people who live and work in Perth, Western Australia. They have public profiles and if you request it, they’re happy to talk to you on the phone or Zoom. Bret’s on +61 409 908 133.

We use Stripe as a payment gateway and have secured permission from all charities involved. We share the authority letters on request.

We’re serious about helping people self-motivate using this method, which is based on solid scientific research.

Setting up a stake

Easy. Just go here. You’ll write out your weekly actions, say how much you’re putting at stake, who the money goes to if you forfeit, and add your credit card details.

Ideally, enough to cause you pain if you lose it and not so much that you’ll be tempted to lie to protect it.

But even staking one dollar has an impact, so if you’re nervous, try that and see how you go. You can always contact us later and change the amount.

Using the app

Just email us or reply to one of our SMS reminders. You can set a re-start date or tell us when to prompt you.

Important: unless it’s a medical emergency, you can’t pause or delete the current week – otherwise people will just stop staking when they’re losing. You’d be giving yourself a monetary incentive when you fail – kind of the opposite of how this works. Take your medicine: it’ll impact how you perform the next week…

You can easily change your promise or how much you’re staking. Just email us or reply to any SMS message we send you. 

Sometimes people forget, even though we send a reminder on report day. We’ll deduct your money. Part of the process here is to focus your attention on the action you’ve promised. Sometimes losing a few dollars is the jolt you need for that.

If there’s an emergency, of course we’ll refund – just drop us a note. What’s an emergency? Whatever you consider an unforeseeable emergency.

If you’re injured, of course, you can’t do your exercise. Just let us know you’re pausing the stake and let us know how/when/if you want to restart.

We’ll trust your judgement on what is unforeseeable and interruptive.


 If giving money to charity is something you like to do, donating to charity may not be a very strong disincentive. In that case, choose 2 Rich Guys as your forfeit. They’re a couple of greedy bastards that only want your money. Losing to them is immoral and a complete waste, so get cracking and keep your promise.

The research and technology that underlies the app is a relatively new branch of psychology known as behavioural economics, pioneered by Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler.

It’s the study of how people make decisions, and it’s based on experimentation of actual human behaviour, rather than traditional economic modelling. There are two relevant discoveries.

First, human beings overvalue the present and undervalue the future. We’re not very good with long term benefits like weight loss, because in the short-term, we’d rather have a donut. And actions are short-term.

Second, humans are ‘loss averse’. Much more sensitive to losing things we’ve already got, for example money, than we are to striving for things we haven’t yet got, i.e. goals. Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for this in 2002.

There’s a vast amount of economics, psychology and behaviour science showing that money influences our behaviour. Knowing that we’re loss averse, we can use our aversion to losing money to generate short-term (weekly) actions.

Getting started is the hard bit and staking has been scientifically proved to be a powerful extrinsic motivator for this.

You don’t need extrinsic motivation forever. Once you’re in action, the brain re-wires itself (neuroplasticity) and changes its attitude towards the action. Habit formation results.

fMRI brain imaging over the past 20 years shows that when you risk money, you activate the same parts of the brain as if your survival is threatened (amygdala, insula and ACC). This circuitry has privileged access to the action centres of the brain, meaning you can do things you wouldn’t normally be willing to do. This of course makes sense from an evolutionary perspective; when your survival is threatened, it’s action-stations.

Why does money activate your survival circuitry? Because humans have spent the past 5,000 years attaching a monetary value to everything in our environment. So when you risk losing money, your brain thinks you’re going to die, and it’s willing to change behaviour.

If you stake money and specify a charity, the charity receives 81% of the net forfeited amount. The balance is a fee to Stake Something and bank fees.

We’re Ben Raphael and Bret Treasure, two Australian coaches who got deeply interested in behaviour change. While researching the academic literature we discovered this powerful way to get yourself into action. People think they’re stuck with their limitations. They’re not.

With this business model, when people are NOT getting what they want, they’re generating donations to charity. We like the idea that businesses can build into their DNA an ongoing contribution to the greater good.