Everyone likes a pat on the back every once in a while. And there’s no better time to get one than when you’re out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself to improve, nervous about whether you can succeed.
Most people approach changing their health habits from a position of “pain”. They constantly nag themselves, berate themselves and expect nothing but perfection, no matter how much progress is made. Tools of the trade are guilt, doubt, shame and self-flogging. Instead of celebrating the 24 pounds they’ve lost, they see the six they still haven’t lost. Sound familiar? To people used to beating themselves up, it may seem like the best way to get motivated. But consider this: if you attempted to motivate an employee like that, how long do you think they’d stick around? How successful would they be?
Let’s do it differently this time. Try to approach your goals from a position of “possibilities” instead. Find ways to use regular rewards to pat yourself on the back and give a word of encouragement. Instead of focusing on what you do wrong, try paying more attention to what you do right. While straight talk and brutal honesty are often good for getting your butt moving, for sustained motivation, the positive approach will keep you from burning out.
Rewards create a feeling of doing something you want to do, not just what you’re forcing yourself to do. Even the smallest of rewards can work wonders as you travel from milestone to milestone, pound to pound, and mile to mile.
Here’s how to set up a good rewards system:
- Choose some benchmarks and reward levels. You can also reward yourself for levels of consistency.
- Make the reward meaningful to you. As a reward, a new pair of shoes may not hold as much motivation as a simple night alone with a book. Then again, it might.
- Choose two or three options from the Reward Roster below or come up with a few reward options of your own. It doesn’t take much. Sometimes, the best rewards are those you can’t buy.
- A lot of small rewards, used for meeting smaller goals, are more effective than relying solely on the bigger rewards that require more work and more time.
- Don’t use food as a reward. Even good food. It’s just too much of a slippery slope. Don’t even mess with it.
- Plan to celebrate. Figure out now how you’re going to celebrate reaching your health, fitness or nutrition goal. Involve other people, tell them about it. Create a celebration that you can anticipate and then keep it within sight all the time.
- Be honest with yourself. Fudging the numbers mentally, or “borrowing” against the next reward hurts the cause of building a lifetime habit. Remember to keep your focus on building a habit, not just figuring out how to get the reward.
Create your own Reward Roster!
Come up with your own, or choose your favorites from our sample list below and use them liberally:
- Compliment yourself. Write down what you would say to anyone else who accomplished what you did.
- Create an actual plaque or trophy.
- Give yourself badges of honor for different levels of accomplishment.
- Take a vacation or weekend getaway.
- Take a day off from any goal activities.
- Put $1 in a jar every time you meet a goal. When it gets to $50, treat yourself.
- Create a Trophy Scrapbook, where you keep mementos from your accomplishments.
- See a movie.
- Make a grab bag of little prizes. When you reach a significant goal, reach in and get your reward!
- Go for a spa treatment or massage.
- Buy yourself a gift certificate.
- Take a limo ride.
- Subscribe to a magazine you always wanted.
- Go canoeing or do something outdoorsy.
- Watch your favorite TV show.
- Buy something for your hobby.
- Read a funny book.
- Celebrate “100% Days”. If you reach 100% of your goals that day, choose two rewards.
- Find some time to be by yourself.
- Pay someone to do the yard work or house cleaning this week.
Written by Mike Kramer
Originally published at Sparkpeople.com