Next week millions of people will make New Years resolutions (i.e. “commitments”). And as quickly as the confetti is swept from Time Square those same people will break those resolutions. Men and women will sign up for gym memberships and then stop going; they’ll start eating healthy foods and then start sneaking snacks from the Super Bowl preparations; they’ll even start reading “all those books they meant to” only to trade in Dostoevsky for TV Guide. It’s really extraordinarily predictable.

There are a couple of key reasons why its so easy for resolutions to fall apart. Sure, some people are just flaky from the beginning. More frequently the costs outweigh the benefits, or at least the perceived costs outweigh the perceived benefits; the benefit has no concrete result; the benefit is heavily discounted over time; and most often - in combination with any of the above - the resolution is just too much at once.

These are valid reasons in an accountability vacuum, but accountability systems can mitigate some of the risks. They simultaneously increase the costs of failure and the benefit of sticking with the resolution. Alternatively one can use financial incentives to stick to resolutions. A duo of Yale economists are priming to launch a service called StickK (alley oop from RSK) which will provide just that motivation. The service allows users to place contracts on their resolutions; if they fail to hold to their commitments then they lose out financially.

It will be interesting to see if the folks at StickK can meet their own commitment. The service is slated to launch in December 2007. It is December 26th and the site has yet to go public.