02 Jul Are you motivated by rewards, or momentum?
Getting to the core of my motivations for this year hasn’t been easy. On the one hand, I want what every forty-[mumble mumble] year old guy wants: I want to look good, feel great, and be in control of my life and health.
On the other hand, I want to look GREAT, which means I want people to notice the changes I’ve made through hard work, careful planning, and more hard work.
But there’s a dark side to kicking things like food addictions and laziness out of our lives: working for the break. Working for the break means focusing on the reward that we inevitably set for ourselves.
“Lose just two more pounds, and you can eat a whole pizza on Sunday night.”
“Make enough money, and you can buy that really expensive gadget you can’t afford yet.”
In other words, you deny yourself the things you’re addicted to, with the promise of getting the thing you’re addicted to when you’re done. And the cycle continues (and continues, and continues). And what inevitably happens when you reward yourself with the things you’re addicted to?
Right. You get hooked again.
Now, I’m not an advocate of complete self-denial. I’m not a monk or an ascetic of some kind. I think we have great and wonderful things in this world that are there to enjoy. And I like pizza. And shiny things. And one of these:
But I’ve been working my ass off — kind of literally — to get my fighting shape back. One of the things the last six weeks have taught me is this: cheats are great, but they’re not the reward. It’s far more effective to build on momentum than it is to focus on rewards.
It’s also more satisfying. Let me explain:
Focusing on rewards is an entitlement-based motivation. If I do A, I will receive B, and therefore A is something I must do. A isn’t the reward or the goal. A isn’t something you do to improve your life or the lives of others. It’s just about getting that one little prize: the extra slice, or the extra shirt, or whatever. But it’s fleeting.
It also has the strange effect of creating a sense of completion. In other words, you got the thing you wanted, so now you can slack off.
Unfortunately, successful people don’t do that. They don’t focus on rewards as the objective. They focus on change as the objective. There may be an extra slice waiting at the end of the week, but if they miss it they don’t care…their prize is more far-reaching than that. There may be a nice little shopping spree or a trip somewhere warm, but that’s a benchmark, not an objective.
The objective is to become healthy, strong, and confident. The objective is to become financially stable enough to be able to enjoy perks without sacrificing your overall lifestyle or worrying about paying your bills. The objective is to enjoy the company of others in relationships that are warm and fulfilling, however fleeting your definition of that may be.
So if I’ve met my six-week goals head-on, it’s not because I’ve focused on self-denial. It’s because I’ve focused on the overall game. When I’ve lost two pounds, my thought process has shifted from “Yay! More ice cream!” to “Yay! The next pound is even closer now!”
Concentrate your efforts on momentum rather than on little prizes, and you’ll build on results. Think of it like compound interest. If you spend the interest you make on your savings account, your money will never grow. But if you allow the momentum on that account to build, the results become exponential.
If you’re moving forward, let me know by joining my Facebook group, and join in the conversation.