As a therapist my aim is to make any change that a client desires as easy and effortless as possible. But before I can work out the most effective way to help them activate that change I need to take a look at the motivation for change; the whys of behaviour. What is it for this client, at this moment in their life, which will instigate, direct and sustain goal oriented action?
This process is the first step in my SHINE programme. At times it is more about discovering what is holding someone back from change, what fears they may have or why they feel they may benefit from maintaining a position which, on one level, they have recognised as no longer serving their best interest. Are they motivated by a forward driving goal or hindered by a backward looking reluctance?
The challenge is to uncover the forces that can be utilised to inspire new behaviour in a fun and creative manner. Recently in my own therapy I recalled a snapshot from my childhood when I received a gold star for colouring inside the lines. The feeling of recognition was so strong that I experienced it as pure joy. I am able to use the symbolism of that reward as a motivating factor in my daily goals. My goal for this week is to produce two blog posts and if I do so I am going to give myself a Gold Star. I am toying with the idea of making a big wall chart that I can cover in stars as I achieve the small daily goals that make up the bigger objectives I am working towards.
I also like the notion of rewarding myself with a SuperStar of the Week certificate, or designing a poster to recognise a goal well done. Silly things that make me smile but none the less recognise that I have completed a task and are proud of my achievements.
There is a difference of opinion as to whether external incentives, such as my star chart actually, do reinforce positive behaviour, the long term goal is to experience an internal sense of pleasure for doing an activity itself.
I do enjoy writing, I appreciate the process of individual words forming sentences and hopefully conveying meaning. I am intrinsically pleased with myself when I can look at a piece of writing I have produced and feel that I have got my message across. But I still like the additional motivation a gold star provides! That one little star links back to that moment of praise from my childhood, it felt good then and still does now. In the exercise I went through with my therapist we explored alternative ways in which I could expand the feelings associated with receiving stickers as recognition. I ended up with a powerful visualisation of dancing around in the garden covered in sparkling gold stars, the sun bouncing off me and producing showers of gold stars that escalated out into the world.Not everyone would find that particular vision motivating, it’s always going to be what works for you. When working on self- administered rewards here are my guidelines which may help you to find your own ‘gold stars’.
- Identify what rewards you actually value – does an extra-long bath work for you? Or would allowing yourself a set time without your phone on every evening be a treat?
- Align the reward with the goal – no good treating yourself to a doughnut if your goal is not eating sugar!
- Experience the power of recognition – praise yourself, recognise progress, give yourself credit.
- Connect the reward with performance – link the prize with the activity, create a ‘chain’
- Timing and frequency are important - make sure that a large goal is broken down into achievable daily chunks that can be monitored for progress and recognised often.
- Formalize your personal reward system - find a way to chart your progress that makes it clear you are on the road to success.