Using rewards to keep yourself motivated. It makes sense. You do something well, get a pat on the back for it, and then you will want to do it more…right?
Well, I have a sneaking suspicion that you have tried something like this before, and it didn’t quite work out the way you wanted it to. Oddly enough that’s pretty common. Most people know that rewarding yourself for a job well done is a good thing, but few know how to do it effectively.
By taking your rewards through these simple steps, you can rev them up and get more bang for your motivational buck. Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Make the rewarded goal difficult but attainable
Step 2: Plan ahead to feed your anticipation
Step 3: Present something small in a big way
Step 4: Acknowledge self-excellence
Step 5: Pay attention to the experience
Step 1: Make the goal difficult but attainable:
Don’t make it too easy
Making a reward great begins with the goal itself. When you compensate yourself for an easy task that you could do with minimal effort, it doesn’t help to motivate you. In fact, your motivation could decrease to the point where you will only perform that simple task well when there is some kind of reward involved. For example:
If you normally can get between 100 and 150 CS by 20 minutes in a game, setting a goal to get at least 100 CS by 20 min for 10 games straight is not the best thing to shoot for. You already know you can do it.
Don’t make it impossible either
On the flip side, if you set your sights too high you are setting yourself up for failure, which obviously doesn’t make you want to keep trying either:
If you just read a guide that tells you 200 CS by 20 minutes is good, but you consistently get about 100, trying to get 200 CS/20 min to start is not a realistic starting point for you. A more realistic starting point is to shoot for making 125 CS by 20 minutes your new benchmark. Once you have mastered getting 125 CS, you can then gradually increase the benchmark until you reach your end goal.
Make it difficult but possible
So the trick is to choose a goal that is difficult to achieve, but still attainable. If you find your reward ineffective, perhaps the reward itself is not the issue. Rather, the goal being rewarded may not sufficiently difficult. If you never achieve the goal you are shooting for, and therefore never get rewarded, consider breaking your original goal into more attainable intermediate steps.
Step 2: Expectation is key, so plan ahead
Know it’s coming…
How big your reaction to something will be is directly linked to your anticipation of the event. Unexpected rewards typically do not increase your motivation over time.
For example, you just realized that you played 10 games straight hitting your 125 CS benchmark, so you reward yourself by buying a pizza. Since you had no idea the pizza was coming, it had no impact on your motivation or performance in those 10 games. Rewarding yourself this way also has no lasting effect on your motivation in the future. However, if you plan on buying a pizza the next time you hit your benchmark, you now have something to look forward to, fueling your desire to play and do well.
Then get excited by planning the details!
Taking time to consider the details can get you excited just thinking about it. Where are you going to get the pizza from? Will it be a personal size or a massive party pizza? Are we talking just cheese or a topping for every win you have had on the way to reaching your goal? The more time and planning that goes into a reward the better.
If you feel like your last reward was a bit of a dud, do it again with more anticipation.
Step 3: Pay attention to Presentation
The way your reward is presented makes all the difference. If you are like me, then you do not have the time or money to treat yourself to a trip to Six Flags every time you do a good job. That being the case, it is important to be able to make relatively mundane events, into an event that is really special and gratifying. Consider these two scenarios:
Scenario A: You sit at your computer eating pizza reading the postgame chat and getting flamed by disgruntled teammates.
Scenario B: You sit on a deck overlooking a beautiful vista with no pressure. You put your feet up and enjoy each bite of your delicious pizza, all while jamming out to your favorite tunes.
It is pretty clear that Scenario B makes a lot more out of having a slice of pizza than Scenario A. This translates to a huge boost in the emotional and motivational power of your self-incentive. The next time you feel like you are on too tight a budget to give yourself some TLC, consider taking something simple, and presenting it in a more grand way.
Step 4: Acknowledge self-excellence
The reward of a thing well done is having done it. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The whole point of goal setting is not just to get rewards, but to prove to yourself that you truly can accomplish what you put your mind to. Rewards mean nothing if you don’t take the time to think about what made that prize possible. Your hard work, dedication and resulting excellence is the first and foremost incentive. Anything else is a bonus.
Relish in your job well done
Self-Incentives are meant to be a celebration of your progress. For this reason it is important to incorporate the cause for celebration in to the event itself. Do you ever wonder why these already painfully long award shows insist on delivering each reward with an introductory and acceptance speech? It’s to give each nominee and winner the opportunity to see the gravity of their accomplishment, and to allow the winner to relish in the moment while acknowledging what got them there.
Put on your own award show…with a pizza!
You don’t have to be famous to be rewarded this way. All you have to do is put on your own show. You could even do it with a pizza! Imagine this:
You pick up a make-your-own pizza kit from the grocery store. While preparing the pizza label each ingredient with something that contributed positively to you achieving your goal. The crust might be your tough skin you developed to ward off harsh criticism. The sauce could represent your saucy sense of humor that kept things light during setbacks. Don’t forget those unexpected “cheese” picks that threw off your opponents for the final touch. While the pizza is baking you reflect on the obstacles that got in your way and now you overcame them. When the pizza is ready, with each bite reflect on each component of your success as you taste its corresponding ingredient. Finally, as you swallow each victorious bite accept that it is because of you and your own excellence that your success was possible saying to yourself: “Just like I made this pizza, I have made my own success.”
Step 5: Pay attention to the whole experience from start to finish
Even if the reward is as mundane as getting a can of cola, appreciate the moment all the way through: from walking to the kitchen, to cracking open the can, to the last fizzy drop of soda.
Fully participate and engage in the experience with all your senses
Take some time to imagine yourself in spectate mode of your experience. Try and use all 5 of your senses to experience you reward, and describe to yourself each moment as it passes. Let the whole moment sink in. Let’s describe drinking a can of soda with our sense of sight in a park:
Sight: Holding the can up, you note the brightly colored can with its metallic sheen. As you look past your fingers gently grasping the can, you can see a field of green grass littered with yellow dandelions. You notice a white-headed dandelion next to your feet that you reach down to pick. With a forceful breath, you make a wish and watch each featherlike seed float away into the glittering sun.
If you are feeling a bit disconnected from your rewarding experience, try describing to yourself what your see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
This is called mindfulness. It’s actually a powerful performance enhancement technique as well. Actually it’s one that Weldon uses when he trains pro teams. You can read more about the training program here mindgames.gg/mac
Here’s a great site on mindfulness with a free 10-session course. www.headspace.com
Pay attention to positive events as they happen
Allow yourself to take pleasure in what’s going on in the moment. This can be difficult and take a lot of effort. Especially when there are a lot of distractions around. Try and remove yourself from anything that detracts from your enjoyment of the moment. Recall, it is not as rewarding to eat pizza as you sit in post-game chat getting flamed by disgruntled teammates.
Multitasking can also ruin the experience. Watching TV while you eat pizza sounds like a great reward, but in actuality you are using two rewards that can detract from each other. So instead of getting double the fun, you are canceling some of the benefit out by not giving each your undivided attention. Try focusing on one reward at a time to get the maximum value.
But don’t have tunnel vison.
Sometimes when trying to reward ourselves better, we forget there is more to our experience than what we planned. Focusing on what your reward is supposed to be may lead you to block out other positive things happening. For instance:
You are sitting in your room enjoying slice of pizza and describing the taste and smell of it. You do this without ever noticing that your pet is a on a hilarious rampage with their favorite toy right next to you.
By not tunneling in on your reward, you leave yourself open to new experiences that can enhance your planned one.
When your mind drifts to negative events, refocus your mind on reward.
Happy events are usually outnumbered by negative ones, so it can be hard to stop thinking about all things that have gone wrong when you are trying to do something positive. This is especially true when we are angry or still emotionally charged from a previous match or something gone wrong in your life in general.
If you find your mind wondering to a dark place while in the middle of a self-incentive that is perfectly normal. Just recognize that your mind has drifted, and refocus you energy on enjoying the current moment. For example,
You are eating ice cream as a reward, and you are reminded of your feeding ADC from last match. Gently retell yourself that the game is over and your ice cream is delicious!
Even if you have to do this over and over, it’s fine. With time it will become easier to bring you mind back to focus.
Try it out!
Now that you know how to get more bang for your buck on your self-incentives, try it out!
NOTE If you want some help with this, I made a Reward Grading Sheet and a Reward Progress Tracker to help you out. If you subscribe to our free email newsletter, I’ll send you both and you can also get updates on new articles and podcasts. You can unsubscribe any time, and it’s 100% spam free. Simply enter your info below
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