One of life’s great joys is collapsing into bed at 9:30pm and getting lost in a great book for half an hour before your eyelids can take no more. Last week, I was enjoying one such moment, when I noticed a strange scratching sound coming from behind me. I rolled over to see my beloved whirling through a checklist with a flurry of ticks with a lead pencil. It turns out she’s got this great big long checklist of daily and weekly goals that she sets herself that need to be reviewed before bed every night. I was very impressed, yet for all her hard work and discipline, I discovered that she had not set any rewards for herself. Now that may sound really trivial and unimportant, but I can assure you that reward plays a massive role in the psychology of motivation in our lives.

For some reason self acknowledgement, celebration and reward don’t seem to come naturally for most people. In the midst of toughing it out and putting in the hard yards, we tell ourselves it is going to be so amazing when we have finished the task or achieved the goal, yet so often when we get there we somehow downplay our achievements and forget to celebrate. Sure, some people celebrate achievements by having a big night on the drink, but that hardly seems like something that adds to the overall quality of your life.

The problem with this is, every time we fail to reward and acknowledge ourselves for a job well done, we miss a massive opportunity to reinforce positive behaviour in our lives – the kind of behaviour we have had to work so hard to discipline ourselves to do in the first place.

Our highly intelligent and rational human brains still operate some pretty basic motivation programs such as pleasure and pain, reward and punishment. The dolphins only jump through the hoops at Sea World because they get a fish for doing so. If the fish stop, so do the tricks. You and I are not too dissimilar from the dolphin. Just doing something and claiming that getting it done will be reward enough, may be enough motivation to get you to do it once, but to build this behaviour as a new pattern in your life – you are going to need to reward yourself appropriately.

So here is what I’m suggesting.

1. Get clear about what you really want in life.

2. Set some specific actions, plans, disciplines, goals, etc in place and program them into your week. (Make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T – Specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, time bound)

3. Decide ahead of time how you will reward yourself when you achieve the goals you’ve set yourself. Make sure the reward is appropriate for the goal. When you start out with this, I encourage you to err on the side of over rewarding yourself rather than falling back into the pattern of under doing it. You want to associate a really great experience with kicking goals so that the next time you think about doing the positive behaviour, no matter how hard, costly or challenging it may be - you know it will be worth it.

Setting great rewards helps us reinforce the behaviour we are trying to set as a pattern in our lives and irradiate behaviour that is holding us back. Rewards help us maintain consistency and create new habits rather than going through cycles of trying to change but running out of steam.

Author's Bio: 

For over 14 years Jaemin has been actively helping people bring about change in their lives through coaching, mentoring and various leadership roles. Jaemin is a gifted communicator with a genuine desire to see people grow and flourish in life.) He has a passion for helping people achieve holistic success in work, relationships and personal spheres. Jaemin is the founder of the largest life coaching company in australia (Frazer, Holmes and Associates.) and has been the senior pastor of Liberty Christian Fellowship for the last 10 years and worked as the school chaplain at Mulwarree Highschool for 2 years. Jaemin has been married to his lovely wife Katherine for 13 years and is a proud father of two young children.