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09 May

Reward yourself with something you almost need

Datum: 2024-05-09 12:08
A person in patterned socks and muddy boots is holding a riding helmet by their side near a white stable wall.

You prob­a­bly know that if you reward your­self when you are prac­tic­ing a new habit you want to estab­lish, you increase your chances of suc­cess — espe­cial­ly if you reward your­self for doing some­thing the new way rather than for the bet­ter results that come from doing things accord­ing to the new habit. This has been con­clud­ed through, for instance, Michael Mahoney’s research at Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty.

But, with what?

Find­ing some­thing to reward your­self with can be tricky. Maybe you find it dif­fi­cult, just like I do, to deter­mine what you want for your birth­day since you buy what you want when you need it. And now you have to buy a gift for your­self, which can seem even harder.

Guri Törn­strand, who par­tic­i­pat­ed in one of my cours­es a while ago and who now is read­ing my book on struc­ture, gave me an idea the oth­er week. Her horse rid­ing hel­met has got­ten a bit worn and she prob­a­bly has to buy a new one, but the old one is still func­tion­ing well. Thus she has not found a good rea­son to buy a new one — until now. She has decid­ed that a new hel­met is going to be her reward. Every time she has com­plet­ed a struc­tur­al exer­cise from the book, she puts aside a lit­tle mon­ey and when she has done all the exer­cis­es, she will have col­lect­ed enough to buy a new helmet!

A thing + a last­ing effect

I think this is very smart. When there was not a big enough rea­son to buy a new hel­met, she added the val­ue of bet­ter struc­ture in her work­day to the mix, and sud­den­ly it is worth buy­ing a hel­met. And, instead of reward­ing her­self with some­thing that has an air of lux­u­ry, such as choco­late, cham­pagne or a day at the spa — things she prob­a­bly does not real­ly need — she rewards her­self with some­thing she almost needs and which she will enjoy hav­ing every time she goes rid­ing. (With that said, I see no harm in eat­ing choco­late at a spa.)

The reward does not have to be that big of a thing, it can be some­thing that you only bare­ly need.

Add all the good effects of hav­ing an improved struc­ture (that get includ­ed in the deal) and the fact that the thing you reward your­self with becomes tan­gi­ble evi­dence of that you have prac­ticed your struc­tur­al skills and suc­ceed­ed, and you get a splen­did reward.

Do this

If you want to fol­low Guri’s exam­ple, do this:

  1. Choose a struc­ture habit you wish to estab­lish. It can be some­thing you have been think­ing about adopt­ing into your work­day for a while. Now is the time to do it.
  2. Think about if you have got some­thing you want to buy, but which you have not yet allowed your­self to buy since it is not absolute­ly nec­es­sary. Make this your reward. Or, it can be some­thing that is not real­ly a lux­u­ry item or expe­ri­ence, but which you feel could be handy. Let this rep­re­sent your reward.
  3. When you have made up your mind, prac­tice and reward your­self when you have man­aged to do things in the new way a cer­tain num­ber of times or as often as you said you would.

More effect in the strug­gle for structure

If you use a reward as a rein­forc­ing fac­tor when you prac­tice get­ting bet­ter struc­ture habits, it will be eas­i­er for you to estab­lish the habits you desire if we are to believe Mahoney’s research. In addi­tion, you will enjoy the pos­i­tive effects that a bet­ter struc­ture brings to every work­day much soon­er and eas­i­er, which in my occu­pa­tion is a big reward in itself — and which lasts long after you have got the thing you reward­ed your­self with.

How do you do it?

A reward can also be some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from a thing, a treat or an expe­ri­ence. What do you reward your­self with when you prac­tice new habits? Are the pos­i­tive effects of your improved struc­ture reward enough or do you indulge in some­thing extra when you have been real­ly suc­cess­ful? And if so, what is the indul­gence of your choice? Share in a com­ment below. 

(Did you know that you can use rewards while del­e­gat­ing too?)

There's more where this came from

A young man is listening to something on his headphones, by a window facing the sea bathing in the sun.

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