Good habits and bad habits form in similar ways. When you receive some amount of relief from an activity, whether it’s the compulsive comfort of biting your nails or cracking your knuckles, you begin to repeat that action. Unfortunately, good habits don’t always deliver that same kind of instant gratification.
Since you don’t enjoy an immediate benefit from making your bed or structuring your studies, you need to incentivize these small victories. You’re more likely to develop a better routine when you reward yourself in tiny ways. Learning how to reward yourself is part of the process, and it isn’t as easy as you might think.
To guide you in the right direction, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know on your journey of self-improvement. Just take things one day at a time, and, soon enough, you’ll find you’re a happier, healthier person. In only five steps, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your motivation and mood.
1. Start With Something Small
It’s common to feel enthusiastic in the beginning, only to lose that energy later on. While enthusiasm is important, it’s also just as essential to start small and take time to let things proceed at their own pace. When you try to do too much too fast, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and give up before you even begin.
Think of something minor you’d like to change in your life, a habit which won’t take much effort to form. Making your bed is an excellent place to start, taking only an extra five minutes every day at most. Setting this small goal early on will help you have a more productive morning, carrying into the rest of the day.
2. Learn the Types of Motivation
Learning the different types of motivation — like extrinsic and intrinsic motivation — will give you a clear picture of how they work and how to use them. Extrinsic motivation is external, like a physical incentive. Intrinsic motivation is your inner drive, often a product of extrinsic motivation.
With this in mind, ask yourself the question, “What types of extrinsic motivation inspire the most significant changes in my intrinsic motivation?” In other words, which rewards are most effective for inspiring you to change your behavior? Knowing the answer will help you with the next step.
3. Decide on Your Reward
You want to reward yourself, but you don’t want to overindulge. It wouldn’t make sense to give yourself a gift every time you made your bed, so set milestones instead. Make a goal for far in the future, not too far, but far enough that it’s something you’ll look forward to as the days and weeks pass.
In terms of which reward you should pick, you have no shortage of options. The milestones you set represent smaller rewards, like eating at your favorite restaurant or renting a movie every two weeks. At the end of, say, two months, you can plan a big night out with friends or family.
4. Use “Programming Hacks”
Certain systems will make your routine easier to build, and you can implement these “programming hacks” to stay on the right path. Programming hacks are easy, and something as simple as a calendar can prove extremely beneficial. Place your habits on the calendar and track your progress, day by day.
With every mark on your calendar, you’ll enjoy a slight sense of accomplishment at the progress you’ve made. It’s one of the ways that working on yourself and developing good habits can rewire your brain. Completing lots of tiny goals is far less taxing than taking on an enormous challenge all at once.
5. Recruit Friends to Help
A recent weight loss study shows the importance of relationships for reaching goals. Patients who had friends in the same study, given therapy and social support, had a 95 percent success rate for completing the treatment. More than that, 66 percent maintained their weight loss in full.
Patients without the same benefits didn’t fare as well, with just 24 percent maintaining their weight loss between the fourth and tenth month. As you develop your plan for starting healthy habits, involve your friends in the process. You’ll feel more inclined to follow through when you know people are counting on you.
Take the First Step Today
If you’d like to develop good habits, it starts with a strong foundation in planning and preparation. You’re likely eager to start right away, but you’re far more likely to see results if you know how to reward yourself and incentivize positive change. Once you do, you’ll find it’s easier to make progress toward your goals.
Take the first step today. Start with something small, and build your way up from there.
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