Positive reinforcement involves promising yourself a pleasant reward to increase wanted behaviour. As children, this kind of tactic is commonly used – hands up who remembers these incentives: “Tidy your room and you can watch TV”, “Eat your broccoli and you can have dessert” and even “If you get good grades this year we’ll take you to Disney Land”.
As children, these incentives worked miracles – so why don’t they work so well as adults? For one thing, childhood was a simpler time. Watching TV, eating dessert and going to Disney Land were the pinnacle of our lives at the time. As adults, work, relationships and money issues tend to muddy the waters.
Positive reinforcement can work well when goal setting however, we just have to learn to do it right. The following four tips should help you to unlock your potential, helping you get the carrots and avoid the sticks.
Aim for the biggest carrot
Set huge, crazy, almost unrealistic goals and then promise yourself an equally big reward. While this may go against everything you believe about goal setting, having a big goal and a big reward will motivate you more than small goals. The return on your investment (whether it’s a physical or mental investment) will be worth it. To clarify – big doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, it just has to get you fired up and excited to accomplish your goal.
Make your incentive purposeful
Unlike when we were children, setting goals and incentives these days is completely within our control – this means you pick your reward. Make sure you pick something that is meaningful to you, something you’ve always wanted to do. Picking things from your bucket list is often a great way to start.
Match your reward to the effort required
Aiming to lose three stone by the summer and treating yourself with a new top may not help to increase your motivation. Instead, match your reward to the effort you put in, so instead of treating yourself to new clothes, why not reward yourself with a new bikini and a sunny getaway to show off your new figure?
Set yourself up for success
As great as all this positive reinforcement sounds, it is important to remember that the process is going to be hard. There will be times when you want to give up. Acknowledge these feelings when they arise and remind yourself not only of the reward you have in mind, but the personal reasons for doing it.
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