Accomplish Your Goals by Rewarding Yourself!

“You get a star!” 

The star reward is a common one for us as children. I am sure you easily remember that shiny, foil star sticker.  Amazing how such a simple reward motivated us as children. I still remember the days I would get back homework in elementary school with a sticker on it. I would happily stare at that sticker knowing that my hard work was recognized.

We know appropriate rewards work for children and therefore frequently use them. Whether it is potty training (read here), earning a good grade or for being good at the doctor, simple rewards will usually get the desired behavior to occur.   When do we stop doing that for ourselves as adults?

Life is better when celebrated.

When I was a doctoral student, one of my professors told me about the reward system she used to help her write her dissertation. Each week she made a set of dissertation related goals. The goal list was challenging but not impossible to achieve.  She also set a reward for that week. She could have the reward if she accomplished her goals. The reward was small but something she wanted.  Some weeks the reward might be a new pair of earrings and other weeks it would be a night out with friends at the movies. However, if she did not complete her weekly goals, she denied herself the reward (the other big part of the equation).

Whenever I am coaching students before a big job interview, I ask them what are they going to do to celebrate after the interview.  They usually respond with a funny look. I understand the confusion. First, most are probably thinking why does that matter? And secondly, they think they can’t celebrate yet because it is just an interview and not the job offer.  I explain the simple act of dedicated preparation for the interview deserves a reward. Also, a reward during the interview will act as treat that will calm the performance nerves.  When they feel their anxiety escalate,  they can think to their reward later that evening and it will put things into perspective to calm them.  Their reward can be a relaxing dinner, a decadent treat, or a new pair of shoes…whatever motivates them.  They deserve this reward for completing the interview. They can’t control the interview’s outcome but they can control how hard they work and how they perform. That alone deserves a celebration! As for the job offer, they can celebrate again if offered the job. What’s wrong with two celebrations? Life is better when celebrated.

Make the system work for you!

Look at your week on a Sunday evening or Monday morning. What are some things you want to accomplish this week that will move you forward toward your ultimate big dream?  Make a list of those steps. The list should be challenging but not overwhelming. Decide what your reward will be on Saturday if you complete those steps. If you accomplish your goals, you get your treat!  Start over the next week with the same process. You will be amazed how much you accomplish toward your goal just after a month’s time. Small steps are doable and move you forward. With the small steps, you are inching closer to your goal so reward yourself a lot a long the way!

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