A few years into my doctoral studies, I began to bog down. I had already completed my foundational coursework which I had enjoyed very much. Each quarter, I felt like I was making consistent progress, and I was getting great feedback in the form of high marks. (Nerd.)
When it came time to start writing my dissertation, the wheels came off for me. I was a bit lost in terms of the overall process, and progress seemed slow. I had completed a few phases, but it had been really tough.
As much as I felt a burning desire to complete my mission, I knew that I needed to jump start my progress. I decided to make a deal with myself. If I could just get to the point where I had completed my research study and had data in hand, I would reward myself by taking my bride on a trip to Turks & Caicos to honor this major milestone.
Dangling that reward helped boost me to the other side of my struggle. Whenever the dissertation process got tough, I imagined how good it was going to feel to soak in that warm sun and stare down into that bluer-than-blue water. It worked really well! A few months later, I graduated on schedule, funny hat and all.
I’m a big believer that intrinsic goals – those goals that are derived from an internal motivating source rather than an external source – make the best goals. After years spent pursuing a variety of goals, I’ve found that setting a few extrinsic rewards for milestones I need to achieve along the way is a fun kicker and a way to keep me on the improvement path.
Consider these 6 tips if you want to make rewards work for you:
- Make it special. When choosing a goal-related reward, try to choose a memorable activity to do or item to buy. The fact that you’re striving toward a big goal is awesome! Your reward should be, too.
- Match the reward to the effort. Rewards are great, but don’t overdo them. Try not to treat yourself to a Caribbean vacation for going to the gym one time. Small victories should earn small rewards, but don’t be afraid to splurge following a big win.
- Mix and match. If you’re pursuing a work goal, your “along-the-way” reward doesn’t have to be work-related. You could schedule a spa treatment or grab some tickets to a sporting event. As long you’ll enjoy the reward, it’s a great candidate.
- Visualize obtaining the reward. Goals are often a lot of work. If you find that you’re slogging it out, try getting a clear picture of what it will be like to enjoy the reward. All it takes is a quick minute to get re-energized and then get back to work on that goal.
- Stretch it out. In cases where your goal involves a long-term routine, try to stretch out your rewards. As an example, if you’re pursuing a daily meditation practice, consider rewarding yourself after your 10th successful session. After that, you could reward yourself after your 25th, 50th, and then 100th session.
- Don’t cheat. If you’ve set something as a reward, don’t partake in it unless you’ve done the goal-related work first. Otherwise, you run the risk of watering down what real achievement requires.
You know your reward is working when your mindset and behavior are positively impacted by the thought of earning it. The bigger goal achievement is what matters most, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find and celebrate little wins along the way.
A Work|Life Warrior looks for every edge in the pursuit of victory. Could a simple reward system give you an unfair advantage when it comes to achieving your goals?
Need some inspiration when it comes to reward ideas? Download the 77 Ways to ‘Treat Yo Self’ tipsheet below!
(Featured image by Pexels.com)
What’s your favorite way to treat yourself? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.