When we set out to do anything, we often have a goal in mind. You might hit the gym to get in shape, read to better understand yourself, or build a business to get freedom. But often, the reward is far away. The amount of effort you have to put in seems to outweigh the potential reward in the end. One way to balance the scale and keep going is to reward yourself along the way.
Let’s have a look at why it’s important to reward yourself, when to do it, and 17 examples of self-rewards.
Why is it important to reward yourself
Rewards are one of the most powerful tools to help you reach your goals. The benefits might differ from person to person and from the reward. But there’ll always be some. Here are 6 reasons why it’s important to reward yourself.
Related: The best habits for self-improvement
It keeps you focused
You probably have some kind of reward in mind when you’re doing something difficult. It might be a feeling, an opportunity, or something external. They’re what motivate us to do difficult things.
Knowing you’ll be rewarded for your hard work can help you stay focused. The sooner the reward is coming, the more effective it will be. It doesn’t have to be something big, but something you’ll appreciate.
You get a mental break
Long-term goals often require a lot of hard work and delayed gratification. The process itself isn’t always enjoyable. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you’ll either take a break, burn out, or give up.
Rewarding yourself can help you get that mental break. Simple things, such as reaching a sub-goal, celebrating a small win, or taking a day off, are often enough. A small reward gives you a break and helps you continue with renewed energy.
It might decrease procrastination
You’re more likely to procrastinate on something you don’t care about than something you enjoy. Knowing that doing something will make you feel good can make it easier to get it done.
Knowing you’ll get a reward after the task is finished can decrease procrastination. When the time you spend procrastinating is going away from your time being rewarded, it’ll be easier to start.
Hard work feels more rewarding in itself
When you reward yourself for effort, your brain slowly ties the reward to the behavior. The reward makes your brain feel good. As the good feeling comes as an extension of effort, your brain will slowly make the connection. It begins to associate feeling good with hard work.
Rewarding yourself can help you make hard work feel more enjoyable. Over time, hard work might be rewarding in itself.
It restores willpower
Willpower is like a muscle. As you use it, it’ll slowly deplete and be harder to use.
It requires a lot of willpower to work hard and delay gratification. As you use it, it’ll be harder to continue doing the difficult things.
When you reward yourself, you give your willpower a break. It gets the time to recover. And just like muscle, it’ll grow back stronger than before.
It helps you build better habits
The habit loop consists of 4 stages: Cue, craving, response, and ends with a reward. All steps have to be present for you to turn a behavior into a habit. The stronger the reward is, the more you’ll crave it. You’ll be more likely to do the behavior if it feels good.
When you reward yourself, you’ll slowly add the external reward to your habit loop. As the reward is bigger the other steps will increase too. Over time, you’ll trick your mind into believing that it’s the habit that’s rewarding. The habit is formed.
How to reward yourself
You can reward yourself for many things. Maybe you reached a goal, studied, worked out, or put in extra effort. Anything positive for your identity can warrant a reward.
Just as there are many behaviors you can reward, there are many ways to do it. Let’s have a look at when you should reward yourself and 17 ways to do it.
When should you reward yourself?
Rewards are an effective tool to help you build better habits and reach your goals. But to maximize its effect, you can time the reward to help you with something specific.
Here are 4 times when you can reward yourself.
During the task
A simple way to make an unpleasant task easier is to reward yourself while you do it.
Listening to music while you exercise, drinking coffee while you write, or light snacking while studying can make it more enjoyable. It’ll be easier to do the behavior. It’s more likely to become a habit.
We tend to give more value to the end of something than everything that happened before. If you end on a high, the whole experience seems more pleasant.
Finishing your workout with a tasty protein shake, using a habit tracker after studying, or finishing your stretching with some enjoyable postures works. This way, you’ll be more likely to remember it as a positive experience. You’ll be more likely to keep going and form a good habit.
We tend to find more energy and focus when we get closer to getting a reward. You can use this by strategically scheduling.
Schedule a day once a week or as often as necessary to rewind and do something you enjoy. Maybe it’s watching a movie, cooking some delicious food, sleep in, or something else.
Not everything in life is under your control. Things get hectic, and you have to do far more than planned to stay afloat. In periods like this, spontaneous rewards can help you keep going.
When you begin to feel stressed, anxious, or burned out, it’s important to step back and do something nice for yourself. Let yourself sleep in, take a day off work if possible, cancel your plans, or take a long hot shower. Taking time to recover and enjoy yourself can help you keep going in the long run.
17 ways to reward yourself
How you reward yourself depends on who you are, what you’re doing, and the things you enjoy. Some people find enough pleasure in mental rewards, while others need something physical. Here are 17 ways you can reward yourself:
- Celebrate small wins
- Use a habit tracker
- Watch an episode of your favorite show or a movie
- Eat a snack
- Cook something nice for yourself
- Order in or visit a restaurant
- Spend time with friends or family
- Go to an event or movie
- Spend some time gaming
- Take a day off
- Buy something nice for yourself
- Listen to your favorite music or podcast
- Get a coffee
- Enjoy your progress
- Watch back to see how far you’ve come
- Go to bed early
Remember, while it’s important to reward yourself, it shouldn’t be something to undo your good work. There is a fine line between being rewarded and punished for over-indulgence. Don’t punish yourself for crossing it, but learn the difference. It’ll only make rewards that much more effective.
Everything can be a reward with the right mindset. Seeing how far you’ve come, the good feeling you get when you finish something difficult or spending time with a good friend. The better you get at seeing things as a reward for your effort, the more enjoyable the effort will be.
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