How Rewarding Yourself Helps You Achieve Your Goals

As is the routine for this time of year, people all over the world are plotting and planning. They are reflecting on the past year and coming up with ways to make this year even better. For most, this means setting some pretty big goals that they want to accomplish. However, setting goals is the easy part. Once you set them, you have to get to work. You have to have a plan for achieving them. You have to figure out a way to gain some momentum. Even that can be pretty straightforward, though.


The problem comes when that momentum slows to a crawl (or stops altogether). What do you do to help you get through those periods when the motivation that you have right now is waning? Better yet, how can you prevent yourself from losing that motivation? One simple, scientifically-proven way to achieve your goals is to establish a connection between making progress and feelings of happiness.


Let’s take potty-training a child as an example. When it is time to potty-train a child, many parents and caregivers decide to reward them for making progress. That reward could be something tangible, such as a sticker on a reward chart or a sweet treat. It could also be something less tangible (but no less exciting) such as a celebratory dance or a high five. To take it further, most parents do not wait until the child is fully potty-trained to celebrate. They celebrate when the child makes any attempts to use the potty seat. When they go several hours or all night without an accident. When they go a full week without needing to wear a diaper. In short, they are rewarded at various stages of achieving their goal. For many children, the fact that they are rewarded for their progress is motivation to keep trying – even when they make.


The same type of mindset is held by adults. We enjoy being rewarded for making progress. When you work in an office, you appreciate receiving raises and promotions at intervals throughout your career. In fact, research in the fields of Industrial Organizational Psychology clearly supports the fact that receiving rewards and recognition increases employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees are productive employees. Productive employees meet deadlines and achieve goals.


Take the time to apply this lesson to your goal-setting by implementing a rewards system for yourself. Write out your goals. Not just the long-term ones, but all of the short-term goals that will get you to those big goals. Now, for each short-term goal, decide how you will reward yourself when you reach it.


For example, if your goal is to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year, one way to reward yourself would be to have a mini shopping spree after each 10 pounds that you lose. The key is to set rewards that excite you almost as much as the progress itself. So if you aren’t really a shopping person, but you love to go to the movies, your reward could be a night out at the movies for every 10 pounds you lose.


I’d love to hear from you! What are some of your goals for this year and how do you plan to reward yourself along the way?


  1. Kevin says

    The go to the movies idea isn’t half bad, I’ll have to use that next time. When I was trying to lose weight it was kind of difficult to look for some way to reward myself. Not really having any spare money at the time I couldn’t really go out anywhere and do anything or shop for anything. So instead I gave myself sort of an ultimatum. I wouldn’t get a haircut until I hit my goal weight. I had started in Feb at around 280lbs and it took me to Sept to get down to what was my regular weight of 200lbs. And I’ve always kept my hair really short so there was definitely some added motivation towards the last month or so! As for this year, just keep doing what I’m doing and maintaining where I’m at. It’s easiest when I pair something like exercise up with listening to a podcast or music. Makes it seem less boring.

  2. Debbie Welchert says

    I was looking for ways to motivate myself to start to exercise and just reading this has given me a few. I think for my first 10 pounds I loose, I think I will reward myself with trying a new type of hot tea without calories of course.

  3. Erin Will says

    I have a problem with setting goals and then not following through or staying motivated for long. This is a great idea to reward yourself along the way. I have a goal of toning up and getting in better shape. I will have to think of a great reward to help me stay motivated to continue my workout routine, maybe a new makeup piece or a little shopping! 🙂

  4. Rosie says

    I love this idea. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever rewarded myself upon obtaining a goal, only put another mountain to conquer in my path before enjoying the fruits of the accomplishment. My resolution last year, and carried into this year, is to lose a few pounds. I have to find a nice outfit or bathing suit I want that would be my reward. Yea! The hard part would be not buying it until I deserve the reward!

  5. Christina A. says

    I do this often to motivate myself even if I do something for only 30 minutes–I promise myself something specific when it is done so that I have something to work for or look forward to!

  6. Katie says

    This makes perfect sense. I do have more motivation when I do something or get something that brings me joy. I need to remember this!

  7. Saundra McKenzie says

    I don’t have a problem setting goals. I have a problem keeping them. I am a big planner with no follow through. Rewarding myself is a great idea. Thanks!

  8. ellen beck says

    In the summer, I reward myself with a new perennial for the garden, in the winter I reward myself with a cup of sugar free cocoa. I just need to exercise so I stay strong , and I need to do it.Small rewards help.

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