Rewarding Yourself for Good Habits
setting up the little things that will keep you moving
Everyone seems to know that good habits are important. Getting routines into our lives that keep us healthy and productive is one of the critical factors in moving toward Impactivity.
### Why habits?
If you’re new to the concept of being extremely intentional about your habits, you might want to check out some of the other resources here at Impactivity that can help you better understand the important reasons for setting up habits, or give you a better understanding of the process of creating triggers, behaviors, and rewards, and the amazing method of stringing habits together into chains to make them even more powerful and automatic.
### It’s all about the reward
Whether we’re aware of it or not, the success of a habit is very much tied to the reward that the performance of that habit brings. Whether it’s a long-term reward like good health that we can clearly see is being affected by our good habits of diet, exercise, or sleep, or a short-term reward like the little jolt of energy from our morning coffee habit, we usually get into a routine or habit because we like the reward it gets us.
But while those long-term rewards are lofty and wonderful, what if the habits we want to incorporate don’t have a quick enough or tangible enough reward to motivate our right behavior? In other words, what if the long-term reward of good health or weight loss doesn’t have a strong enough pull on us to overcome our reluctance to hit the gym?
Sometimes it’s necessary to create smaller, more immediate, and more tangible rewards for ourselves, to find the motivation to complete the habit.
### Are my rewards legitimate?
Maybe you’ve already committed to this process of habits and Habit Chains, but you’re struggling to find rewards that are motivating, but also legitimate.
This reward set up can be tricky.
We set up our habits or habit chains, but then the only immediate and tangible rewards we can think of are…
chocolate or other junk food (unhealthy!)
basic necessities we’re withholding from ourselves unless we “earn” them (unhealthy!)
spending money we shouldn’t spend (unhealthy!)
actions we should be taking anyway, and shouldn’t skip (unhealthy!)
Or perhaps we just feel like we're not creative enough to think of good rewards.
So we get frustrated because we want to add these good habits, and we know an immediate reward would help, but what kind of reward makes sense?
### Shift your mindset
If the above dilemma describes you, try shifting your mindset in these three important ways:
- We think of “reward” as a way to treat ourselves nicely. But unhealthy food, behaviors, or actions are not nice! In other words, stop thinking of pouring junk food into your precious body as a reward, and start realizing it’s more of a punishment. Stop thinking of overspending or wasting time as a treating yourself well--you're not! Can you think of some positive alternative? For example, a small but healthy food indulgence that doesn't need to be part of your everyday?
Rewards don’t have to be big things. The point of rewards is to have something that exhibits a slight pull on you, causing you to want to complete the behavior more than you want to ignore it. If you’re using Habit Chains, often simply putting the most enjoyable part of your chain at the very end can be enough to pull you through the motions of all those habits. Your coffee at the end of your morning routine can keep you moving through the habits to reach that satisfying point. It’s not that you’ve “earned” the coffee--it’s part of your routine--but you want to reach the end of that chain so you keep going.
Remember that setting up rewards for good habits is a means to an end, and it’s a temporary one. As you repeatedly perform the behavior when triggered, eventually the completion of the habit itself becomes the reward. You just feel “off” when that trigger occurs in your life and you don’t complete the habit. The way you’d feel if you put your sneakers on but didn’t tie the laces, or put your jeans on but didn’t zip them up. When a behavior becomes automatic, you don’t need a short-term reward, and you barely think about the long-term reward. You just do it. It’s a habit. So don’t get too worried about creating the perfect reward. If you can make it motivating enough to keep you working at the behavior for a few months, chances are the behavior will become a habit, and you won’t need the reward.
### But I get bored with routine
We get it. We’re achievers, we like to get things done, but we’re also creative. Doing the same thing every day feels like a rut, and we start to avoid the routine.
But routines and habits are more like the foundation to build a highly creative and energetic life. Think of them like food or sleep. You don’t get bored with food or sleep, do you?
If you’re bored with your routine, changing up the rewards can be an excellent way to introduce a little variety and keep you motivated.
But remember, eventually these habits start happening on autopilot, leaving your brain free to be thinking about all your amazing creativity, and you stop realizing you’re even performing the habit. Boredom only happens when your mind is focused on something tedious. Do you feel bored while you’re brushing your teeth? While you’re getting dressed?
Once habits become automatic, they aren’t boring.
### Ideas for rewards
With all of the above as a foundation, you can see that creating the “perfect” reward isn’t necessary. Just get a bit creative and you’ll think of what will motivate you. Some ideas:
Sensory enjoyment--things that you enjoy as tastes, sounds, smells, sights, and textures--can be powerful.
Times with people, whether in-person or online, can be motivating.
How about mental stimulation, like reading or watching something you find interesting or entertaining?
Even the “gold star” method can work! You can create something visual that shows how many days in a row you’ve completed a habit, and then the pull of not “breaking the chain” can be a reward.
Start small with a single habit, or a single chain with the most enjoyable part of the chain at the end. Come up with at least one healthy reward that pulls on you. Get started. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, but really commit to not missing more than one day in a row.
You'll be amazed at what even small rewards can do for you!
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