The Power of Small Rewards

Lately I’ve been doing some big thinking. And when that happens, I know what comes next. A project planning session or two or three…  And that means time spent on the whiteboard to diagram the broad strokes, chunk things into smaller goals, and make lists.

When I get into project planning mode like this, I confess that I sometimes forget to set milestones with small rewards along the way…. even though I know better.

It’s a well known fact that employees perform better when rewarded, children behave better when rewarded, and competitors who enjoy competing for prizes and recognition see these as rewards for their hard work.  And so do I.

I know I’m not the only one who forgets or maybe even has outright resistance to the idea of rewards. Several years ago, a student in one of my classes said that making a list of rewards caused her inner critic’s voice (which reminded her of her father’s voice) to say, “You don’t need any rewards… just do it!”

But really, the act of being kind to ourselves with rewards helps us to get what we want.

“You get what you reward. Be clear about what you want to get and systematically reward it.”
~ Bob Nelson

In case you’re still thinking, “The only reward I need is the satisfaction that comes when reaching the finish line,” check out the following list of benefits that prove my point about the power of small rewards.

Rewarding yourself along the way:

  1. Simply makes achieving goals more fun.
  2. Provides incentive and motivation. Looking forward to a reward will help when you hit roadblocks and need to take detours. Also, rewards represent milestones. When you complete the task, you take your reward, scratch that item off the list, and get the feeling of forward momentum.
  3. Increases positivity.  Rewarding accomplishments leads to positive thoughts.  And when you put positive energy out there, you attract positive people and things to help you get what you want. People and opportunities come to you like moths to a light.
  4. Engages your inner child who has been trained to want the gold star. C’mon, you know you want the gold star! Also, engaging your inner child makes goal achieving more fun (see #1). By the way, a small reward idea:  give yourself actual gold stars as rewards or just do stuff your inner child likes to do. Personally, I love kids’ coloring books like the ones you get at the dollar store.  Those grownup coloring books you can buy everywhere these days? I like them, but it’s just not the same as doing a wordsearch in my Star Wars Jumbo Coloring and Activity Book!
  5. Is an expression of gratitude, and saying thank you to yourself with a reward for accomplishing something also increases positivity (see #3). Just try to complain about something when you’re feeling gratitude. Can’t hold both thoughts in your head at once, can you?

Okay, now it’s time for me go make my list of small rewards. Definitely going to put a trip to the dollar store on my list.  What about you? If you use small rewards along the way, I’d love to hear what you like to do!

Angela Loeb is into self-development… learning it, teaching it, and supporting others who do too.
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