Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

My experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits


Why We Shouldn’t Reward Ourselves for Good Habits–With One Exception.

June 22nd, 2015

Episode 78 of 540 episodes

Once a week, I have Tips Day or List Day or Quiz Day. Today: 5 reasons why rewards can be very dangerous for habit-formation. Of the 21 strategies that I identify, that we can use to make or break our habits, the Strategy of Reward was one of the most difficult for me to understand. In large part, because the lesson is: be very wary of using rewards to master habits! Why? It sounds so sensible to reward yourself for sticking to a good habit. But it turns out that rewards are very, very tricky to use well. Why? 1. One common form of reward is the attainment of a goal, and that reward marks a finish line — and a finish line marks a stopping point. Once we stop, we must start over, and starting over is harder than starting. The more dramatic the goal, the more decisive the end — and the more effort required to start over. By providing a specific goal, a temporary motivation, and requiring a new “start” once reached, hitting a finish line may interfere with habit-formation. Running the marathon, quitting sugar for Lent, doing a 30-day yoga challenge — once the goal ...

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