HomemotivationPunishment vs Reward

In my never ending quest to better manage my time, I like to try assorted methods.

I still have my physical calenders, and I’ve recently been using a free app for Android devices, in an attempt to get a better handle on my schedule. That said, I’m still always on the hunt for better tools.

Over my journey of self discovery, I’ve found that my biggest stumbling blocks are motivation and mornings. Mornings are obviously something I need to figure out on my own, maybe with yoga and running or taking up dream journaling again, but motivation is something that seems to effect a lot of people.

After a bit of online hunting, I’ve found there seem to be two primary ways people keep themselves motivated – rewards or punishment. Rarely do I see the two paired.

Of the two, I tend to respond better to rewarding myself for hard work. That self-inflicted positive reinforcement seems to make the tasks themselves easier to handle. Sometimes, it can even make them fun.

Like with NaNoWriMo, the sense of accomplishment with the added cherry of a

Gotta wrap up the story, but I have 50K+ words
done. Holidays got in the way.

goody gives me something to strive for. That said, the reward must be something I choose for myself, and the task needs to have more depth than the desire to have that prize.

However, I can understand how people are driven by punishment for not accomplishing a goal. It’s natural to want to avoid unpleasantness, and that drive to dodge discomfort can be very powerful. That’s why negative reinforcement works so well for many people.

For me, though? That doesn’t work very well anymore. When I was young, I did whatever I could to please the authority figures in my life, but as I grew, that urge to please someone because they were above me in the hierarchy of authority has waned dramatically.

Once I fail at something and someone tries punishing me for it, I have more tendency to brush them off than to work harder at pleasing them. If the task itself is important enough to me, I’ll continue working at it, but if it’s not, I have a hard time finding the will to keep at it. If worst comes to worst, I’ll find a new job or a different way of accomplishing that particular goal.

I suppose I got more than enough of that sort of discipline during my school days. If making it through school with dyslexia has taught me anything, it’s that I must internalize the importance of the task at hand if I hope to succeed.

That said, I have worked at pointless jobs for survival. Even though the job itself held no interest for me, and the environment may have been downright hostile at times, keeping a roof over my head and food on my table had to be reward enough. If need be, I’d do it again, too.

However, I always needed something else in my life to nurture my mind and soul during those times. Like during dental procedures, I had to keep the idea of impermanence and the possibility of escape into daydreams in mind during the more unpleasant work days.

Then again, that ongoing suffering is what drove me to save enough money to be able to eventually break from the day-job mold and embark on the uncertainty of a work-from-home life. So, maybe negative reinforcement works when it involves life changing events.

Does anyone else operate as I do? Does punishment or reward work better for you?

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