How to stay motivated. Part 2

Last time I warned you that you might baulk at my next recommendation: I say this because I’ve noticed that quite a few of my clients have a hard time accepting the idea that there should be a reward for each and every goal that you achieve.

They say “Oh, the sense of achievement is a reward in itself” and I get the impression that they’ve been brought up to think reward means the same as indulgence. There’s that old Puritan-style teaching that hard work is enough, that somehow you’ll weaken your character if you look for a reward for your efforts.

Human motivation – pretty much all animal motivation – boils down to either moving away from pain or towards pleasure. And, while they’re equally essential, I think the second is more attractive.

Employers, for example, have to offer a financial reward for work done – it’s not acceptable to make you work to avoid a beating.

Manufacturers of beauty products use the principle to convince you that you deserve their shampoo or hair dye or face cream as a reward for being you – “You’re worth it!” (Don’t think of avoiding the pain of paying more for it!)

Will you get a better result from the carrot or the stick?

I think we’re too apt to use the stick on ourselves and we should be looking more to find the right carrots to draw us on.

So, what makes a good carrot?

You’re really the best person to answer that one since you know best what will give you pleasure.

What I will say is that at the same time you decide on your goals you should also choose a number of ways of rewarding yourself for each one that you achieve. And – this is also very important – at the time you achieve them.

If it’s a relatively minor goal, then the reward should reflect that and it should be in line with your overall aims. If your goal is to be a non-smoker, it’s hardly going to help if your reward for not smoking for a week is a cup of tea and a couple of cigarettes.

But you could put aside the money you save by not buying cigarettes and buy yourself a treat of some kind.

If that’s going to mean saving for some time, though, choose another small reward that you can give yourself at the end of that week. Don’t put it off or you’ll lose the incentive effect.

A reward doesn’t need to mean spending money: it could be half an hour with your feet up, reading your favourite book. You could make yourself a chart which lists all your goals and award yourself a star for a minor achievement, 2 for a bigger one and so on.

Remember to pick things that you will really enjoy, that fit the achievement and that can follow as hard on the heels of it as possible.

Oh and here’s another reaction I get to the idea of rewards: they say things like “Oh well, my husband usually brings me a bunch of flowers on a Friday – that can be my reward.” Er, no, sorry, it can’t.

You should be the one to reward yourself – it’s key that you recognise and appreciate what you’ve achieved yourself.

Ditch the resolutions and achieve your goals!

How many New Year resolutions have we all made and broken over the years? And, no matter how often we demonstrate to ourselves that they don’t work, why do we still keep on trying?

Just think about it… it’s always a downward spiral: we resolve to give something up, we don’t manage it, we feel bad about ourselves and think we must be weak or lacking in will power. Then we probably go back to our old habits for comfort and are convinced that there’s no hope of improvement.

But we keep on trying because we so badly want things to be better and they can be: with a different starting point, it can all be so much easier.

The first step is to stop making resolutions. The whole idea is off-putting and the word itself could have been designed to make you feel depressed before you even start.

“Resolution” conjures up a picture of bracing yourself, gritting your teeth and squaring up to something difficult. “Promise” is a much more positive word: it matters how you talk to yourself about these things and the word has so much more – well, promise about it, don’t you think?

Rather than making a resolution, make a promise to yourself that you’ll work towards your goal and make sure that the goal you’re working towards is an enticing one. Once you’ve chosen something that will stretch you (although not unbearably) and fixed the timescale for it, work backwards from that date and decide when you’ll achieve each interim step. Now you’ve got a plan to get you to your goal. Remember to reward yourself for each step as you achieve it.

And if “resolution” is a hard word, telling yourself that you’re “giving something up” is another quick way to shoot yourself in the foot. It sounds too much like losing something. Think of it as moving on from something, an old habit that no longer serves you or something you’ve grown out of.

So leave the resolutions behind and make yourself a promise that you’re going to move forward to your chosen goal. (Remember to write it down – somehow that makes it more of a commitment to yourself.)

Plan your interim mini-goals and timings, reward yourself as you achieve each one and, come December 2012, you could be looking back and congratulating yourself on all you’ve achieved.

How does your job score for the 5 Cs?

To get the most from your career – and, as it’s a major part of most of our lives, you really should aim to get as much as you can – there are 5 factors that you need to consider.


Does your current job make you feel that you’re adding something to your own and others’ well-being? Do you feel that you’re adding something to the general good?

It may be fairly obvious if you’re a brain surgeon or a charity worker but don’t underestimate the value you can add with any job.

Take something like hairdressing, for example. Few people have as immediate and profound an effect on their client’s sense of well-being: they can send someone out to face the world feeling great or feeling terrible.

As well as knowing for yourself that you’re making a contribution, it’s essential that that contribution is acknowledged.

Whatever form that takes, whether it’s a financial reward or an “Employee of the Month” trophy or a sincere “Well done!” from your boss (and, really, how hard can that be?), everyone is entitled to the respect of having their contribution valued.


This one’s about motivation: if you can’t believe in what you’re doing, how can you feel motivated to keep doing it?

If you can’t care about the product/service you’re part of providing, you’ll struggle to motivate yourself and work will simply be drudgery you have to slog through to collect the pay-cheque at the end of the month.

And it would have to be a pretty humungous one to make up for spending a large part of your life doing hard labour!


Do you sometimes (often?!) feel that you’re the only one in your group of colleagues who feels the way you do?

Can you align yourself with your employer’s mission and values statements – assuming they have them? And, if they do, how committed are they to abiding by them?

When you can’t feel the “fit” at work, having to compromise your own beliefs and values can take its toll on your nerves and your self-esteem.

Beware, too, of the sessions with colleagues where you gather with a cup of coffee to slate your boss/company/colleagues not actually present! It may be a short-term fix to make yourself feel a bit better but, long-term, it can seriously damage your emotional health.


You’re giving a large chunk of your adult life to your employers. If there’s no feeling of contributing and/or no recognition for your contribution, no belief that what you’re doing is of value and no sense of “fit” with your employers and/or colleagues, how can you feel any commitment to what you do?

And without commitment, how much of a success can you make of it?


One of the most dangerous things about being unhappy at work is how it saps your confidence, not just in your professional ability but in all areas of your life.

Our sense of ourselves, our identity is closely tied to what we do for a living and, if you feel that what you’re doing isn’t making the most of your time and talents, it can have a very negative effect on your self-esteem.

Once that starts to sink, you can so easily lose the will to find something better and the belief that you’re capable of doing so.

Before that happens, it’s time to take a good look at what you really want to do and how to achieve it. And if it’s already happened, it’s still not too late to get some help to move forward with your life – where could you be in 6 months’ time?

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