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  • I'm giving you a gold star

    Acknowledgement, appreciation, rewards: Why are these so important? 

    We act like rewarding ourselves is optional, burdensome, maybe even inappropriate. Like, shouldn't we have grown out of this need for gold stars after second grade? 

    Nope! Rewards are not meaningless tokens. Even those little foil stars that my own second-grade teacher Mrs Doheny (RIP), bought in bulk and probably had tonsleft at the end of the year because boy, was that lady ever stingy with the gold stars.

    (This is why I love reparenting, by the way, not just because our parents may have missed a thing or two, but because we also had schoolteachers, soccer coaches, piano teachers, PE teachers, lunch ladies, other kids' soccer moms, and all manner of pseudo-parents who got in there with bad information, moved stuff around, possibly broke some nice things, and generally left our heads a bit of a mess. Which we can tidy up anytime we like.)

    But back to gold stars and why they're necessary. It's not just because we're traumatized little kids walking around in adult-sized, maybe "plus-sized" bodies. It's not just because we didn't get enough recognition when it would have benefitted us the most.

    It's because humans are built this way. Our minds are wired up to respond to rewards, and that is NOT something we grow out of. Wanting rewards and recognition doesn't mean we have arrested development. It means we're normal.

    So let's work with that structure. Let's just use praise and rewards, because it's effective to do so.

    Say you want to make a habit of eating 2 servings of vegetables per day. (You can do this by eating one cup of cooked greens or 2 cups of leafy greens, for example.) Here's how: 

    1. ACKNOWLEDGE yourself. Catch yourself doing the right thing: buying the greens, prepping the greens, eating the greens. You'll have to be paying attention, but the oftener you notice yourself doing the thing, the easier it will be to notice. (Which is another habit. You're forming a meta-habit!)

    2. APPRECIATE yourself. Do it out loud, girl! Say to yourself Look at you! You are DOING IT RIGHT NOW. Hell yes! They said it couldn't be done! They said I would never figure this out! AND YET! Here we are! Eating the broccoli. HELL, yes. Hahahahahaha! (Cackle optional.)

    3. REWARD yourself. You can actually use a gold star on a chart, if you like. Our brains don't need anything sophisticated. Stickers work great! I put mine right in my bullet journal. (You can go crazy on Amazon with Japanese stickers. Or just visit the art supply.)

    Acknowledge, appreciate, reward.

    When we give ourselves a gold star, we reinforce the habit we want to create. (Or help wreck the habit we want to break.) We put the bow on the package. The period at the end of the sentence. We tell ourselves we did it! We're there.
     
    And if we don't reward ourselves, we make change that much harder. More on that next time. 

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