Tool #8 – Reward Yourself
How can you motivate yourself to do something that just doesn’t appeal to you, but that you know is important to complete? Consider giving yourself a reward when you finish it. There are several “flavors” of rewards, here are three of them:
Use “Premack’s Principle.” Your mom knew this when she told you to eat your vegetables if you wanted dessert. You can pair activities that you know you’ll do with something that you want to accomplish. The “reward” activity can be something you really enjoy (like reading a book) or something that you just know you will reliably do (like eating dinner). I worked with a client who found that once she went downstairs in the morning in her bathrobe, she tended to stay in her pajamas most of the morning — which was something she didn’t like doing. So we identified going downstairs as the reward activity and getting dressed as the activity for earning the reward. We agreed she could stay upstairs in the morning as long as she wanted, but she wouldn’t go downstairs until she was dressed. This worked for her. I had another client who enjoyed certain television programs, and used those as her reward for accomplishing specific activities. Which leads us into…
Bribe yourself with something small. As stated above, your reward can be an activity you enjoy and do regularly. But you can also reward yourself with something that you don’t get around to treating yourself to. Have you been wanting to get together with someone for lunch? Find a small project, and use the lunch as a “carrot” to entice yourself to complete the project.
Bribe yourself with something big. Is there something really special that you want? Maybe something that you’ve been wanting to buy or a weekend trip you’d like to take? Consider using a sticker chart. We generally think of these as being only for children, but the truth is, they can be a very effective motivators for adults. Draw a grid on a piece of paper with a specific number of squares on it, maybe 25 or 50 or 100. Each time you make a specific amount of progress, check off or put a sticker in a square. It’s a great visual way to chart your progress, and when the squares are filled, you’ve earned your reward. You can use this to help establish a new habit (“Each time I walk for 10 minutes or more, I’ll check off a box.”), or to work your way through a project (“Each time I clean out a drawer in the kitchen, I earn a square.”). Be sure to treat yourself to the reward when the chart gets full! It’s amazing how often people work hard for a reward, then don’t give it to themselves!
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