You Deserve a Reward (system)!
Happy New Year!
Now that I’ve created my goals for the year, it’s time to give myself some incentive to keep myself motivated.
When people start out on a weight-loss journey, many times they reward themselves with food. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a slippery slope if you’re trying to lose weight and eat healthier. I’ve done this many times and it often leads to slipping back into old habits.
There are tons of different rewards systems out there. Personally, I’ve tried a dozen. I’ve moved pebbles from one jar to another to represent pounds lost. I’ve… done other stuff…
One rewards system that really works for me: paying myself to do healthy things!
“But Jamie,” you say, “I’m already paying for (fill in the blank: Gym membership, diet program, etc, etc.) to get healthy. I can’t pay myself too!”
Let me ask you this - can you afford to give yourself one dollar a day?
If yes, then this can work for you too.
After I set my goals, I plan my reward. I like to give myself a big treat - something expensive that I wouldn’t normally treat myself to, like a deep-tissue massage.
Next, I get a calendar where I keep track of my activities. I prefer a physical calendar, and I like to put it somewhere that I’ll see it every day, like my fridge or my bathroom door.
Every day that I do a “good for me” activity - like exercising, meditating, eating healthy, or logging my calories - I reward myself with one dollar by marking a little dollar sign on the calendar. I usually give myself one dollar for each good thing (up to three), but you can easily start with one dollar per day.
Once I’ve made enough money to pay for my massage, I schedule it, and then I start over. Sometimes it takes a month, sometimes two months, sometimes more.
This is essentially the adult version of a sticker chart. I spent much of my career in child-care and education, and I’ve seen these types of systems work for kids of all ages and learning levels. So, why can’t it work for adults?
Basically, you set a big goal, and a big reward for yourself for when you hit that goal. Then, you set smaller goals, and give yourself smaller rewards - stickers work for kids, I like to use dollar signs - that help you build up towards the big ones. These types of rewards systems are great because they go hand in hand with goal settings skills like breaking things down and making product and process goals.
You wouldn’t do work for your job without getting paid, would you? (psst - you shouldn’t).
Why not reward yourself for all your hard work you're doing for yourself?
Figure out your big goals and break them down into daily or weekly goals. Then, figure out your big treat. Maybe it’s not a massage. Maybe it’s a pedicure, or a night away from the kids. Maybe it’s a product - a VR headset, leggings, a new pair of shoes?
Something to keep in mind: try not to reward yourself with food - especially if your goals involve weight loss. This can be a slippery slope. It's one thing to reward yourself with a night out at your favorite restaurant, but be careful that you don't end up slipping into old habits. I speak from experience on this one. You should have cheat - or "treat" days, but that shouldn't be your reward. That can trick the brain into thinking of food as comfort, and if you're trying to lose weight, you're probably already trying to break that cycle.
Another note: you want to be able to reach your goals before you get so frustrated that you give up on yourself. If you’re doing a dollar a day and your big treat costs $300, it might be a whole year (or more) until you reach that goal. If this is new to you, I would recommend starting with something you can reach in one to two months. That will depend on your budget and your reward.
Are you ready to treat yourself?