Why Rewards Scare the Bejeezus Out Of Me…

I’ve got a thing at the moment about our society’s mentality for rewards. How we are getting to the point with our children both in the home and at school that they “should” behave to get rewards. And I mean tangible rewards – whether it’s points, stickers, time on the X-box, prizes, toys and so on and so on.

I want to be clear that it’s not that I don’t believe in rewards. Hard work should be acknowledged. Good choices should be celebrated. What I am struggling with is that we seem to be approaching it backwards. Instead of being a natural consequence, it is becoming a condition. Less often, it seems, kids aren’t achieving something and getting accolades. Rather, it seems that the knowledge of something they will “get” is what is used to make them do what we want them to do.

As a new-ish business owner and a passionate parent, I started thinking about how that mindset of expectation might affect the future generation’s ability to become leaders, innovators, and status quo breakers.

Because when running a business, our family and our lives, we do a LOT of stuff that is very much unrewarded. We spend a LOT of time learning, practising, screwing up, trying again, getting a bit better, mucking up, going again and so on and so on.

And, (GASP!) there is rarely anyone waiting at the next hurdle with a bottle of champagne, a gift voucher, or a trophy to push us to keep going in the race.

Sure, we may “get” rewards – increased income, recognition, happy families, good lifestyle, small wins, personal growth. And yes, some of those rewards may be driving us and pushing us to leap that little bit higher when we think that we can do no more.

But in the daily grind, while on the roller coaster ride called “Learning Curve”, during times of hair pulling, teeth clenching frustration – it is often those elusive, intrinsic rewards that separate the hobbyist from the professional, that divide the marathon runner from the sprinter, that split those who succeed in business and life and those who falter, get stuck, and sometimes even quit.

If we were solely relying on tangible “prizes” to motivate us towards perseverance, determination, and consistency – how far would we ever really get?

So the question to consider is how can we passionate people, who are working our butts off to create and sustain a happy family, business, and life create a mindset that is rewarding within itself? How can we continue to put one foot in front of the other without a cheering squad chucking “Thanks for Participating” badges at us? How can we learn to see those invisible rewards?

The bad news is that I don’t have one answer that can magically transform our mindset. The good news is that the possibilities for achieving this are endless.

Ultimately, it is up to us to dig around and find the golden ticket that works for you and your family. Perhaps this might be making a conscious decision to celebrate even the smallest achievements. I am not above doing an extremely embarrassing happy dance when I finally figure out how to do something new. Maybe for you, it is simply immersing yourself in the incredible, incomparable feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment and pride when you are able to achieve something that previously seemed insurmountable. Could the anticipation of sharing your results with the people you care most about be exactly enough to fill you with the motivation you need to succeed?

For me, the biggest reward has been seeing myself become the person and parent I am striving to be – a person that I am proud of, a person who is developing qualities that I can admire, a person who can model the rewards of daily efforts to my children.

I worry about the up and coming generation of kids who seem to be driven by instant gratification and concrete rewards. I ache when I imagine young people who only do to get. And I am committed to teaching both young and old to seek rewards that matter, that can be accessed again and again, and that create a level of happiness a crappy plastic toy never could.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field