Almost everyone starts their health and fitness journey with the same types of goals in mind – they either want to lose or gain a specific amount of weight, or tone up a trouble area, or look good for a special occasion. Most people have a set of goals and rewards in mind that goes something like this: “When I lose twenty pounds, I will buy myself new clothes!”
These are all great goals and can be great motivation to get moving. In my personal experience though, I’ve found that they’re not great for helping you keep going. My body in particular likes to hold on to fat like poor Jack clinging to that door in the North Sea – “I’ll never let go!” indeed. This would be fantastic if I were, say, living with the Clan of the Cave Bear and wasn’t sure where my next meal was coming from. But in the ultra-modern USA, that’s not particularly ideal.
I used to get really frustrated by the fact that I was doing everything right – working out regularly, eating healthy food, avoiding temptation, you name it. I would go longer and longer in between weighing myself hoping that I’d see bigger numbers and would be less disappointed. And inevitably, I’d see teeny tiny progress and think to myself “Why am I even doing this? Why am I getting up so early, and saying no to so many things I love to eat, for NOTHING?”
It took me a long time to get past that mindset, and a lot of constant reminders that working out and eating healthy are the right things to do even if I’m not seeing the results the way I would like to. But this was a total downer of a motivation, and it made exercise a chore instead of something rewarding and enjoying. And all the time, that stupid goal jar sat there with pounds and pounds to go, and I didn’t feel like I could get myself the reward I had promised, because I just wasn’t there yet.
And then one day, I thought…why shouldn’t I reward myself for all the hard work I am doing? This is what I can control, not my apparently stubborn and arbitrary biology! I can’t MAKE those pounds go away, but I can make myself get out of bed every morning and put my workout clothes on and get moving, and I can make myself a salad instead of grabbing an unhealthy lunch out somewhere, so why isn’t that worth a reward by itself?
So that weekend, I sat down and I decided that I was going to change how I looked at my rewards. I was going to put $5 into a rewards fund for every workout that I finished, and when I had $150 I was going to buy myself a present regardless of what the scale or the measuring tape said.
This really changed my whole outlook on meeting goals. For the first time, I felt like I could really do it! That the only thing standing between me and my reward was MY hard work, not the random acts of the Scale Fairy. I still use this system, although it’s not always $5 for a workout. Sometimes it’s just $1 for a workout to get fun things like these awesome shirts, and sometimes it’s $5 a salad to get new workout shoes. Right now, I’m working on getting myself a Magic Bullet blender (still one of my all-time favorite infomercials!) at $5 a workout.
Here’s your homework:
- Pick an ACTION that you want to get better at. Do you need to work out more often? Add more distance to a run? Make better choices your meals away from home?
- Pick something that you would really like and wouldn’t normally buy for yourself. How much does it cost? How many times would you have to do the action from #1 if you paid yourself $1 each time? $5? $10? Pick a goal and a price-per-action that you can complete with between 20 and 60 actions.
- Start saving! Pay yourself cash at first to get excited about it! I have also used placeholders to represent the dollar amount I’m paying myself once I got used to the idea.
- Buy your special reward and ENJOY IT!
Rewarding yourself the right way is the first step in my secret formula to getting consistent with your workouts. Want to get the rest of the checklist? Download it here for free!