You've gone through the trouble of creating a new habit, breaking an old habit, or just shifting some change on your life in some way... successfully. Yay!
Now what? Do you get something special out of it?
Well, technically, you get the benefit of the change you were after in the first place. That's not super sexy though. And, sometimes it's not even big enough to have some bragging rights for.
This is when we all get caught up in rewarding ourselves for good behavior. And for some reason, the reward usually ends up being the exact opposite of the feat we've been trying to achieve. For example, for giving up sugar for a whole month, I'll reward myself with a cupcake. You're reinforcing the bad habit of sugar, not the good habit of no sugar. When you're not in that moment, feeling the desperation of making this deal with yourself, it sounds absurd, right? Why would you suffer all that time so that you could break any good habit you were potentially forming?
Another example: I'm going to stick to my budget and when I've saved up $X, I will buy myself a new outfit. Even if the outfit uses only a fraction of the amount you saved, it's still reinforcing a bad habit, not a good one. Also, in allowing these behaviors as rewards, we are signaling to ourselves that we were good, so now we can be a little bit bad. Anytime we psychologically assign good and bad feelings to actions, we immediately feel rebellious to our own rules.
Rewards are not helpful. They bring more attention to the negative part of the change you are trying to banish. And what we should be trying to do is to neutralize those feelings. Sugar is neither good nor bad. I can try to limit my sugar, but if I really want it, I can have it. If I am able to establish a new lower-sugar diet, my reward will be easier fitting clothes and more energy in the afternoon. Spending money is neither good nor bad. I will try to save money, but if I really want a new outfit, I will get one. If I am able to save money, my reward will be a higher interest return and the peace of mind that I have a financial safety net.
I'm also not a fan of never giving ourselves nice things. Gretchen Rubin does a great job of breaking down and defining the major difference between rewards and treats. Treats are nice things (or moments) we give ourselves for no reason at all. They are not rewarding good behavior or rewarding the absence of bad behavior.
Here are some of my treats! What are yours??
+Long walks with Levi while catching up on podcasts