How often do you ever celebrate your successes? When was the last time you took the time to reflect on an achievement or treated yourself because you accomplished something that didn’t seem possible for you before?
If you are like most people, you are so caught up in the daily routine that you probably don’t stop and celebrate. We work hard to accomplish our goals but as quickly as we achieve the target that we set for ourselves, we move on and set another and another. As a result, oftentimes, we get little satisfaction from our accomplishments and in the end ask ourselves, what was it all for?
You have undoubtedly heard of Pavlov’s dogs who would start to salivate when they thought of the food they were going to eat. Our brains too have a way of getting excited if we think we are going to get a reward. Yet we are talking about more than the constant stimulus we get from our cell phones or gaming apps. We are talking about the need for training our brain to get excited at the thought of getting a reward for improving our performance. When our actions or behaviours are rewarded by a pleasant outcome, we are more likely to try to repeat that action. Rewarding ourselves for positive results has been proven to work for both athletes and professionals alike.
A study much more recent than Pavlov’s 1880 science experiments was done by Cornell researchers Woolley and Fishbach and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2018. What these researchers found was that when people were rewarded for achieving benchmarks in their work, performance improved, engagement improved and people were happier to try to achieve positive outcomes long after the rewards were gone.
Unfortunately, organizations regularly set goals for their employees and rarely celebrate when they achieve those goals. Whether we are hitting sales targets, or financial profitability targets or customer satisfaction scores, many leaders forget that we are intrinsically motivated to dwell in our success and that our teams get frustrated when we constantly demand more but give lip service to the efforts they have contributed to realize these goals.
Sports teams by their nature are more apt to celebrate successes even with the small things such as high fives, cheering and celebration parties, trophies and awards. This provides incentives for team members to drive themselves to be the best they can. The culture of celebration is fantastic for those who are able to push themselves to be good enough to win. However rarely do teams placing fourth in events celebrate their successes. Instead they tend to dwell on their failures.
We know that the brain wants to give us more of what we focus on, so if we are focused on our failures, our debts, and our misery, our brain will find ways to give us more of that. When we are focused on our successes, our wins, and when we celebrate those wins, our brain works hard to try to achieve more of those endorphin rushes.
But what if we are not on a team that celebrates success? What if our goal is just making the team, getting through a project, putting a certain amount of money in the bank, or achieving success in our personal field. The good news is that there are still ways that we can take advantage of the research that shows that rewards work to improve performance. As individuals we need to consider how we are going to reward ourselves for jobs done well, targets hit, or performances beyond our expectations.
Consider now what you would reward yourself with if you were to hit one of your larger goals? What would you like to give yourself as a prize? Would it be a trip, a day off, a dinner with friends? The bigger the achievement the bigger the reward! But that is totally up to you. The key here is that rewarding yourself will set the stage for the next goal.
You may have some intermediate targets on the road to your ultimate goals. How would you like to reward yourself for these? How about rewarding yourself for a great practice or a good month, or even for every sale along the way? These could be as small as giving yourself a walk around the block, a special drink or snack, or a meditation break.
In order to perform at our best, we need to give ourselves valid reasons to succeed. Rewarding ourselves upon completion of our tasks with something that we will enjoy helps us to concentrate on the tasks necessary for our success. It is one more way of helping us at our best each and every day of our lives.
Dave Fuller, MBA is an Award Winning Business Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Reward yourself by getting an email back from Dave! Email firstname.lastname@example.org