New Year, New Habits: Changing the Way We Look at Rewards
Every new year, we set out to embark on the journey of creating a "New me". We adopt new habits, reward ourselves for the small successes, and fall off the wagon by June. What can we change to make our changes stick?
"I worked hard at the gym. Time for a double chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich."
"My savings accounts has an extra $100 this month. I should go ahead and buy that designer bag I've been eyeing."
You know you've been there. I know I have. Where's there? There is staring your new year's resolutions strong. You're focus and determined to lose that baby weight by summer. You take time to plan out workouts and do a little bit of meal prep. You are rocking this new year, new me thing when your brain messes it all up.
Eating kale and grilled chicken drizzled in avocado oil becomes boring. The thought of doing two miles at the gym is starting to make you want to throw a tantrum. So you do what any sane person tries to do. You attempt to bribe yourself.
Bribing yourself is innocent at first. You did three miles at the gym instead of two? Eat a cookie. You read one full chapter of a new book this week? Buy yourself a scarf. Rewards like this keep us motivated. But while keeping us motivated, they may also be a key factor in the demise of completing our goals long term.
Be careful about using rewards to master habits.
Our society has this practice of rewarding ourselves for every little thing that gets us closer to our goal. We tend to want a cookie for just getting up in the morning. While this may make us feel good in the moment, it could actually set up back.
According to the author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, rewards can sabotage the habits you are attempting to put in place. Most of the time, when people choose to rewards themselves, they often choose rewards that contradict their goal. Remember that double chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich for making it to the gym for a week? That would set you back. It might be just once a week, which begins to spiral into every day without self-control. . The results you would be looking for would take longer to come to fruition.
What do rewards teach us?
"When the reward stops, the habit stops." - Gretchen Rubin
Using a reward system to encourage the creation of successful habits teaches us that we can opt-out. Don't feel like paying off your last credit card? Talk yourself out of the treat of the "Debt Free Vacation" you planned. No biggie.
You're also taught to only do something if you're going to get rewarded for it. It can also make the task even less enjoyable. . Gretchen Rubin breaks down the strategy of rewards using children coloring with markers as an example. The children who received a reward for coloring, did less coloring than the children who colored without the reward. Do children need a reward to do something they love to do anyway?
What rewards should you use to change habits?
The kind of reward that works is the kind that pulls you deeper into the change you want to make. Taking your lunch to work to save money? Snag a new lunch bag to motivate you. Building a healthier lifestyle? Splurge on some new workout gear. Maybe a new bike.
The reward for changing your habits is the result from the new habits. Saving money by not eating out will result in a bigger savings account. That is the goal anyway, right? So even though, we're in the month of February, you can still benefit from your new year's resolution by changing how you reward yourself. Make sure your rewards pushes you toward the change you're making and you'll be happy with the results.