I struggle to be successful in everything I do, and I want to dig deep into the why so I can understand how to keep my team, family and friends motivated. Whether it is cutting my lawn, work, being a parent, losing weight or even writing this blog there are times were getting motivated to be perfect. Previously I have written that perfection is the enemy of good, and yes, I need to remind myself, but it is more than that. Sometimes during the journey, I get demotivated and not only do not do my best, but often not even good.  

Currently I am on several journeys including one to drop weight again. After having several mental challenges which pushed me to eat more, and then several health challenges that prevented me from working out and eating more, I found myself in a shape I did not like. I had to almost demand myself to build a strict diet and even further keep myself to it.  

One of the things I started doing was weigh myself every day and keep it going good and bad. Yes, I forgot a few days (tired etc.) but that does not bother me. In the beginning of any diet, you lose weight fast. If you look at all ‘pop’ diets they push to have do a lot in the first two weeks to get the motivation going. Realistically the best way is slow and steady versus giant drops. I set my goal and started tracking. The days I lost I got this dopamine hit, but there were days that I know I hit my calorie differential that I was either flat or even up and I gained weight. I had to fight through those days to keep at it. In fact, those days where I was sure I would be down and gained were hard days. 

I did give myself short term goal and once hit that pushed that goal further. The goals I set were very intrinsic. I chose not to set up extrinsic rewards and it has taken me a while to figure out why. You can google what they type of rewards are, but the thought of not going for extrinsic rewards as I felt if I did that it has being continuously diminished, and they no longer work. By using intrinsic reward, I value that success at such a higher level than buying myself a gift for hitting the goal.  

So why are extrinsic rewards so diminished? If every time you hit a goal, you are rewarding yourself i find a few things happen. First the reward must grow, if it’s not better than what you just gave yourself why would I push, I already got a reward. It is not possible to continuously escalate rewards possibility. Also not hitting the goal in the period can feel like I am punishing myself. This can demotivate me quickly. I get lazy as I can pick easy goals and get them as a reward myself thus reducing the value of the reward even more. Guess what, studies show the same thing. 

Take for example participation rewards. If these are given often at some point the people participating are there for that extrinsic reward. There is no longer the journey is important but this notion of the reward at the end. If the reward disappears, participation will also. This is not to say all participation rewards should go away, but the notion of how and when to give them should be well thought out. Allowing someone to find intrinsic rewards encourages longer term participation.  

One other example of extrinsic rewards gone wrong, at a previous company (and many others) I was working one thing that was done at key milestones we got a gift. A Lucite that had the release and date info on it. The first time it was done people thought it was cool. But it got to a point it became a participation reward as that other groups were demotivated who did not get one. Not all projects have key milestones etc. This spiraled into what was more of a competition to see who had more Lucites on their desk. Thank God that there was a market downturn and cost cutting and one thing that went away was to remove this.  

Yes, I know extrinsic rewards can be important also. For me, the extrinsic rewards are ones that are not self-given. For weight loss it is others noticing (without prompting) it is fitting into an outfit that did not fit both are non-self-created extrinsic goals. A Lucite for an achievement that was exceptionally large also can be well received. In fact, the drive for something that takes a lot of effort, well beyond a day-to-day job, is what should be recognized. The downside again is making sure that people all understand it is something that really is beyond as it can demotivate others who also put in extra effort.  

What else demotivates me? Instant rewards that require little or no effort. Take for example scrolling through TikTok, Instagram or other short social media. These quick cool things give my brain a dopamine hit (reward.) If I do not give myself a break from these, what happens is that again my brain struggles with other rewards. Yes, there are wonderful things on social media like food prep meals, new workouts, cool science fact etc. that are wonderful. Just like other rewards though they diminish, the next one must be so much better, and it relates to other goals I am trying, like weight loss and work.  

Ok this sounds too much to take in to hit some goals. Yes, it is, it is why I struggle. I do have too many goals, yet I need them. I need to set goals at work and personal goals. I need to ensure I have my own intrinsic rewards to hit them and let others who pick the extrinsic rewards do what they think works. I need to look at those extrinsic rewards as just external to me. If you are wondering where I am on my weight loss journey, in two and 1/2 months I am down 23 pounds which is a little off my target but still good. I am on my second goal after hitting my first one and looking forward to hitting a reach goal at some point. I have not rewarded myself yet for any weight loss, and I’m not sure I will. At work there are few stretch goals I wanted but have not gotten them and need to push myself as there is only one quarter left to hit them.  

As for you, I ask you to look at what motivates you and figure out if the extrinsic rewards have lost value and what rewards you need to reach the goals you set for yourself. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them.

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.