One thing I’ve wanted to do better at work is stay hydrated (along with being a good employee and a hard worker…), and instead of buying a bunch of bottled water (which is bad for the environment), I figured I’d buy a nice water bottle that I’d always have by my side (think about a sweet, self-filtering hard plastic machine bottle. I made myself think that if I had a better bottle, I’d be encouraged to drink more.
That type of thinking leads us to the worst types of purchases. Instead of buying something nice to encourage good behavior (which rarely works, like the person who purchases an $80/month gym membership and ends up going three times a month), we should start the good behavior, and if we can sustain, then give a reward.
In my case, I should have started reusing a plastic bottle, and only after improving my behavior rewarded myself with a nicer, more durable bottle.
Another example is a few years back, I got myself the Nike Plus sportband to encourage running more often. I ran more often, but because my friends were doing it, not because of my expensive watch. As soon as they stopped, I stopped, and I still had the watch! (Don’t worry, I’ve since sold it to get my iPhone.)
When we buy things before the good behavior occurs, we don’t connect the reward with the action. If I tell myself that if I work hard the next quarter, I’ll buy myself a brand new C.C. Sabathia jersey, I’ll be motivated to do well and do the best work possible. But if I buy the jersey and say that it’s because I’m going to be putting in long hours over the next few months, there’s little correlation and I won’t have the motivation to keep working before going home. I already have the jersey, so why stay late?
A lot of the “stuff” we get ends up as “stuff” because we buy it before we have a full understanding of how much we’ll use it. It’s not a great idea to buy a nice set of golf clubs before we ever go golfing. Instead, use a rental set, and if you love it enough to continue despite your sub-par hardware, it may finally be time to upgrade. At that point, you can be more certain that it’s something you will continue doing and they won’t just sit in the garage gathering dust.
It’s a much better feeling to earn something than it is to be gifted it. By setting goals and making connections between our actions and our rewards, we can really motivate ourselves and avoid the useless purchases that clutter our lives.
Readers, when have you bought something to encourage good behavior? When have you rewarded your good behavior with something you really wanted?