My granddaughter had difficulty going off to school at the start of kindergarten. To make stepping onto the big yellow bus more palatable, my daughter created a basket of gifts. If Cookie left without a fuss in the morning, she could reward herself with one item when she returned home.
I loved the concept and wanted to put it to work in my own life, to help with tasks that were challenging for me, like sending my writing to publishers or promoting my new book to reviewers. A basket of adult trinkets sounded like a fine plan. If I wrote to a handful of publishers or reviewers each week, some prize could be mine!
I immediately encountered a problem with this plan, though, and here it is: I already own everything I want, so what exactly could I put in my basket?
Trying to figure this out, I wrote to 28 friends asking how they reward themselves for reaching goals in life. Eighteen answered. The most interesting thing I learned is that not all my friends set personal goals nor do they reward themselves for making it through the ups and downs of life. However, from those friends with goal-and-reward systems, here are the wise words they shared.
Friends who reward themselves with non-food things:
Cindy B. rewards herself with anything and everything sold at Talbots. While many of her goals are related to her weight, she firmly states that she would not want to die the day after she didn’t eat dessert.
Rob will reward himself with something he considers frivolous: a new pair of gym shoes. While he admits he currently owns 80 pairs, and wants to give 30 of them to charity, he also admits that as a reward for making such a donation, he will probably buy himself a new pair of gym shoes.
Tyler loves music and drools over expensive musical instruments he sees online. When it is reward time, he buys the entry level version to practice on, automatically setting up the next goal and reward. If he sustains interest over a long period, he allows himself the nicer version.
Friends who reward themselves with food:
Stefan rewards himself with “a little candy or a lot of ice cream.” Recently after an arduous task, he treated himself to a fast-food milkshake. He hadn’t had one for a long time and could not believe how enjoyable and satisfying this nostalgic treat was.
Trish says that after days away from home at medical conferences she often finds herself tired, grumpy, and headachy, so she rewards herself for going to the sessions with a truly good meal and accompanying drink, even though her per diem will not cover it.
Loie is also willing to imbibe, choosing happy hour as a fine reward for a job well done. (I’ll drink to that!)
Vera rewards herself with food and non-food things. She says she already has everything she wants, and more. But, she rewards herself “generously and as often as possible” with ice cream and/or with massages. She adds a postscript that she doesn’t need a reason to reward herself, quoting a famous catch phrase, “Because I’m worth it.”
I was intrigued that several of my respondents rewarded themselves with the gift of time.
Lisa’s reward is to go to her “safe place” (in her bed with her pj’s on) with a good book and malted milk balls. For smaller accomplishments like folding the laundry, she gives herself a smaller gift of time, allowing herself to waste a bit of it on her phone.
Marta is not interested in giving herself something with monetary value. Instead she thinks of “indulging” herself. She says, “When I finish a major work product or a big meeting is over, then I allow myself to return to my correspondence. I enjoy writing letters, so this is a treat.”
Jennifer says she is very self-motivated. She gets an idea and does it. The big things in life bring their own reward, but for the little annoying daily tasks, she rewards herself with a bit of time to have a snack or snuggle the dog. Jennifer’s most interesting comment, though, was her amazement over my statement that I already have everything I want in life. I’m about 20 years older than Jennifer, so maybe this is just a perk of being sixty-seven, but her statement reminds me to be grateful.
Here are the remaining responses I got:
Meg told of an acquaintance who rewarded herself for giving up a smoking habit by saving the money she would have spent on cigarettes and going on a vacation instead.
Sheryl says her reward is in the satisfaction she feels for reaching her goal and that she will sometimes share her success with family and friends via a phone call or an in-person show and tell.
Lucy feels that magical moments in nature – like seeing two baby deer with their mom in the backyard or a yellow finch at the bird feeder – are random rewards that she receives in life. Her statement, like Jennifer’s, blows my mind. How wonderful to see the beauty of nature as a reward the universe is bestowing!
I had hoped to come away from this exercise with a list of trinkets to put in a basket. Instead, I come away with this:
The need to create time-off-for-good-behavior gift cards!
A burning desire to accomplish some goal of mine so that I can reward myself with a McDonald’s milk shake.
The greatest gift of all – gratitude for all I have in life, including a bunch of friends who willingly share their wisdom.
If you have comments or questions about Lorie or her writing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.