I often talk about the dangers of rewards, but that's not to say rewards are a bad thing. When used correctly, they are motivators that keep us going. The only problem is that we've abused this method so badly that we now feel entitled to a reward for even the most mediocre event.
So how do you use rewards effectively to keep you focused without derailing your progress?
Less is More
Continual rewards make you falsely believe that minor things are worth celebrating. Lose a game? Barely pass a test? None of these things require hard work, so why should they be rewarded? By promoting this behavior, we teach people that it's acceptable to not try. By continuing this behavior on ourselves, we never learn what real effort entails.
To make rewards effective, there have to be fewer of them. They have to come only at times when you've gone above and beyond what you've ever done before.
How do you go about finding a healthy reward system?
Start to reward yourself only for things you haven't done before.
Skipped dessert and rewarded yourself? You no longer get a reward for that. Worked out super hard and rewarded yourself? You no longer get a reward for that. Pretty soon, all of the basic things you used to reward yourself for will be crossed off the list, leaving only bigger goals.
Set a goal and a prize.
Remember to make this goal challenging but realistic. It could be something like dropping two pounds in two weeks' time. Challenging? Certainly. Achievable? Yes. Again, after you've achieved this, cross it off your reward list as you can no longer reward yourself for this goal. Now, come up with a bigger goal and reward.
Your rewards cannot be food or drink.
It's time to break the habit of associating food with good behavior. Instead, make the reward a new shirt or manicure or movie. It could even be as simple as two hours of dedicated time pursuing an art you really love.
Co-host of HeroesForge, founder of Battle to Be Better, gamer, singer and all around happy person.