Think back to when you were a kid, and recall a reward that you desperately wanted. I can think of a bunch: my name under the sunshine that read “THANKS!” on my second grade teacher’s chalkboard; the Kind Student of the Week badge in fifth grade; the shopping spree to the mall my mom promised me if I brought home all A’s all year.
As adults, many of us have forgotten the art of rewarding ourselves for a job well done. We have trained ourselves to perform at our best as a kind of standard expectation, without taking a moment to pat ourselves on the back—or even better, give our inner child a treat.
When I was in my 20s I was working on a book (my first book!) and living in New York City. Every morning on my way to work, I passed this incredible ice cream truck. I never stopped because it was morning, and... one doesn’t eat ice cream in the morning. But one morning I gave myself a promise: When I finish this book, I’m getting morning ice cream.
Suddenly my morning commute became motivational. I’d pass those big, condensation-drenched tubs and think: Will I get mint chocolate chip that future day (my usual), or something else?
When I did actually finish the book, I wrote a poem about it. Here it is:
I decided to deny myself the ice cream
until the day I finished the book,
and when that day came I
found I no longer wanted the ice cream
because I had the book.
It was fun to walk by the pistachio tub each day,
my feet hot,
and pretend I still wanted it,
but was waiting.
Over the years, my goal rewards have been all sorts of things. I’ve given myself a blanket; a jacket; a necklace. I've chosen experiences—a cooking class, a vacation, a bike ride to Coney Island. These items and experiences are all special to me because of what they symbolize—a goal, reached. In this way, they are packed with meaning.
In my course, one of the first assignments is to pick a goal reward for when you finish your book. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be something small, like ice cream.
What do you want to reward yourself with when you finish whatever it is you're working on?
We’re all kids in adult clothing. Put something tasty at the end of your work. You will have earned it.
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Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash