Goal Motivation : How To Use Rewards Effectively
A few months back, I was watching a rather interesting local reality show. A parent wrote in to seek professional help in disciplining her willful 5 year old son. The little boy was so ill mannered that at the time of the filming, he was climbing window grills, running all over the house and even throwing an umbrella at his mum. A professional child psychologist was asked to assess and advise on the boy’s condition.
Weeks later, when the crew followed up with the mother and son, the little boy was literally a changed person. He was still playful but was more responsive to his mother’s instructions. In fact, he was impressively subservient at times. A stark contrast to what he used to be weeks before.
What do you think was the reason for his improvement?
Well, the title of this article has probably given it away. Yes, rewards.
The psychologist proposed an easy-to-administer reward system for the child. Every time he behaved or did something good, his mum would put a smiley face sticker on a chart. For every 10 stickers accumulated, he was entitled to a mystery prize. It could be a piece of stationary, a treat at the McDonald’s or an excursion trip. Counting the number of smiley face stickers was literally a source of motivation for him to behave. Because that meant he was getting closer to another reward.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Up A Reward System
Pure physical reward in itself is not sustainable. But when implemented with effective self appreciation and a burning desire to achieve the goal, it can still be a rather powerful tool in setting the course. By using a simple award chart, smiley face stickers and mystery little prizes, the mother managed to tame the boy in a matter of weeks. Something that she had difficulty with for the past year.
Likewise, if you’ve been having problems disciplining or motivating that willful side of you to observe daily to-do lists, goal action plans or deadlines, do give this a try. But before you tee off to setup your own reward system, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself first :
In other words, what’s your basis for dishing out the prize? The mother in the reality show used 10 smiley face stickers as a guideline. In your case, you may want to align it with your milestones. If your goal’s to lose 20 pounds in 6 months and every 4 pounds lost is considered a milestone, complement that special moment with a nice gift. Maybe a trip to the day spa. Or watch a movie with your friend. When that happens, trust me, you’ll definitely start looking forward to your next 4 pounds.
Are you impartial when it comes to conferring the rewards or do you tend to play cheat? If you know you’ll not likely stick to the rules, get someone such as your goal buddy, spouse or friend who does.
Is the Reward Aligned With Your Goals?
Say your goal’s to save 6 month’s worth of your salary as your emergency fund by the end of the year. It simply doesn’t make sense to have a prize which will cost you thousands of dollars. Otherwise, instead of motivating you to move towards your goal, it’s likely to set you back.
Does the Prize Come With A High Perceived Value?
In other words, is your reward irresistible to you? Most reward systems fail because the person receiving the prize doesn’t associate a high value to what he gets. And when he doesn’t think what he’s getting is worthwhile, he loses the momentum to work towards the next milestone. Being irresistible doesn’t necessary mean it has to be expensive. It can even be something intangible, such as a peck on the cheeks from your spouse. Or a whole day off from your goal plan. Making a reward irresistible isn’t about the physical reward at all. It’s about the experience you associate with the reward.
Some Creative Ideas To Make Your Rewards Irresistible
Experience? What’s that?
Imagine there’s a box in front of you and you’re told that whatever you get from the box is your reward for achieving your milestone. After groping for a few minutes, you took out a piece of paper that says “4 day 3 night’s Cruise to Alaska”. Would you be more excited at that time than to know the reward right from the start?
Almost instantaneously, the value of the cruise reward augmented. By adding an element of surprise and fun in the way you delivered the prize, you’ve enhanced the experience of your reward. Interestingly, the same tactic’s used by retailers in the form of lucky draws and dips to draw crowds to their sales or product launches.
This works extremely well for rewards of lower monetary value. So, if you’ve always had a budget constraint, here are some creative ideas to make your rewards seemingly irresistible :
The Blindfold Game.
Get a trusted person to fill up a mystery pack of gifts in a box. When it’s reward time, blindfold yourself and randomly pick one from the box.
Genie In A Bottle.
Write down all your rewards on slips of paper and put one into a bottle each time. Open it up and find out what you’ve got for yourself this time.
Create a set of favours redemption vouchers endorsed by your family members or friends. The vouchers can be “Please do the cooking for today” or “Please run an errand for me”. Use them deservingly!
Hide & Seek.
Get your kids to hide your prize in a room and do a search for it when it’s due. No clues please, children!
Create a dartboard and mark it with your prizes. You get a chance to throw 1 dart once you’re due for a reward. If it’s out the board, sorry. Try again next time!
That’s all from me. Do you’ve other creative ideas? Let me know in the comments!