Because sometimes that warm fuzzy feeling of having done the right thing just isn’t enough on its own.
When you’re looking at behavior modification, people really aren’t that much different from animals. Repetition and motivation are the keys to success.
I’m a fan of positive reinforcement in pet training, so I’m going to opt for that route with my own self-training as well.
Any reward system should:
- encourage good behavior
- discourage bad behavior (without punishing it)
- be flexible
- encourage long-term repetition
If a system doesn’t do all of these things, then it probably won’t work as well. After all, I fancy myself smarter than a dog, so I probably need a tighter training program.
Step one of any program is to decide what behaviors you want to modify and why.
For myself, I’m building the rewards program to encourage myself to work out and keep working out.
I know I feel better when I’m exercising, I know I want to have a tighter, healthier body, and I know how important it is to get started on this NOW.
Knowing hasn’t exactly translated into instant success, though.
In addition to knowing which behavior I want to encourage (could be working out, could be writing, could be anything, really) … I’m taking this opportunity to discourage some negative behaviors that I want to curtail AND to encourage some other behaviors as well.
- I NEED to work out consistently.
- I want to cut back on drinking. I know, I know, it’s fashionable for writers to drink–I like to buck the trends here.
- I want to cut back on eating out. Granted, it’s not like we go crazy with this, but even one eat out a week is a significant cash drain, and we were getting pretty close to two per week.
- I want to encourage myself to read more, without feeling like I’m being frivolous with spending money on non-essential items.
The solution is to turn it into a game. Games work because they offer rewards. Even an intangible achievement is something to aim at.
- One dollar is awarded for every day that I work out. Working out is at least 15 minutes of exercise. Usually, this should be a P90X dvd, but it can be things like bike rides if I need a break from the tv. Also, it’s incredibly beautiful outside right now.
- For every seven consecutive days, a medium additional reward is given. This could be eating out once, or a video game if Steven and I pool our reward.
- For every month with no missing days, a very large reward will be given, to be determined at the time of achievement.
- Every missed day is a missing dollar and a break of any pre-existing streak.
- There will be no streak-breaking penalty if a day is missed for valid reasons, but no dollar will be awarded for that day.
This pool of reward money can be spent on anything I want, but most specifically, I cannot have alcohol I do not “pay” for from my pool. My average drink would be a $2 drink, so if I want a glass of wine after dinner, I’d better make sure I have the cash for it.
Also, my cash pool can be used to buy books for my kindle. =]
Right now, the “cash pool” is figurative. I keep score on paper rather than dealing with actual dollars.
So far, it’s working out pretty well. I’ve already hit my first streak reward (Final Fantasy XIII-2, here we come!) and I’m finding that the desire to keep my streak going is enough to at least get me out on my bike when normally I would have convinced myself that I could take a day off without hurting anything.
Any of you ever tried anything like this? Did it work for you?