Stop Working for the Reward
Career Growth

Stop Working for the Reward

by Griffin Hill
Photos Shannen Norman | April 29, 2015

PUTTING IN THE HARD WORK? DO IT FOR YOURSELF, NOT AN EXTERNAL REWARD.

I am a part of the generation that has facilitated the “everyone’s a winner” attitude in our culture.

It pains me, to be honest, because I was raised in a family that praised hard work for the sake of a job well done, and I firmly believe in the value of doing all tasks to the best of my ability.

And yet, I see Little League teams walk away from a tournament, and every participant has a trophy in hand. I see friends post on Facebook about rewarding their children with money for good grades. Especially in the fitness world, I constantly battle the mantra of “you burned it off”, so have an extra helping. You deserve it.

If you are a parent or the product of reward-driven parents, hear me when I say the habits that are being instilled will impact far more than your piggy bank after a good report card. Children and adults alike who live with the expectation that rewards should instantly follow hard work will have the tendency to burn out and overindulge in every aspect of their life.

Because they “deserve” it.

Children and adults alike who live with the expectation that rewards should instantly follow hard work will have the tendency to burn out and overindulge in every aspect of their life. Because they “deserve” it.

Worried that you may fall into this pack? Here are a few quick assessments you can use to determine if you are working for the gold star or are content with a job well done:

Make More, Spend More

If you have a phenomenal day—maybe you met your sales goal or finished a stressful exam—what’s your go-to? Do you shop to let off steam or bring home a bottle of wine to celebrate? Of course, these things are fine once in a blue moon, but if your accomplishments are always followed by a deduction from your bank account, you might be an instant gratification-aholic.

Kicking & Screaming

In the real world, credit is not always given where credit is due. Sometimes you slave away on a project for work, and your boss never even says thank you. Sometimes you spend all day cleaning the house, and your spouse barely bats an eye before plopping down on the couch.

What’s your reaction? Do you ignore the slight and feel proud of yourself? Or, do you begin kicking and screaming (figuratively speaking), asserting yourself, drawing attention to your part, and vying to be noticed?

There’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself, but no one has time to praise your every move.

Eating Your Feelings

One of the lies perpetrated in our culture is that we need to indulge in food to be happy, yet there is a big difference between a balanced diet and a reward-driven diet. Women, especially, struggle with the idea that their workout earned them an extra sweet and Ben & Jerry need to accompany a bad day.

Treating yourself occasionally is healthy, but you can treat yourself to something other than dessert, too. Don’t fall prey to the trap of eating your feelings on a regular basis.

* * *

It’s difficult to walk the narrow road of believing that doing your best is enough, regardless of a reward or acknowledgement, but it is necessary for long-term success. To live on a budget, persevere through tough times, and maintain a healthy lifestyle, we have to stop waiting for the gold star. We need to learn to pat ourselves on the back, rather than wait for someone else to do it for us. {Click to tweet}

To live on a budget, persevere through tough times, and maintain a healthy lifestyle, we have to stop waiting for the gold star. We need to learn to pat ourselves on the back, rather than wait for someone else to do it for us.

One of my favorite quotes advises people to “live for a few years like most won’t, to live the rest of their lives like most can’t”.

I think the message behind this quote speaks to those who have learned to work hard regardless of the reward.

If that is truly your goal, here are a few actionable ways to get there:

Know Your End Goal

Those who work for a reward are all about instant gratification, so you have to begin to break that mindset by focusing on the big picture.

Whether your goal is a promotion, a new venture, weight loss, or a cross-country move, realize that what you are working on right now should be a stepping stone to a greater goal.

Give yourself a visual reminder of that goal: put a picture above your desk, create a new screensaver for your computer, or discuss your plans with a trusted friend. Find ways to create active accountability that will keep you focused on the bigger picture when today isn’t going too well.

Have a Set Budget

If spending is where you indulge the most, create a framework to reverse the habit.

Try to use cash only for certain expenses to eliminate the temptation of a credit card. Find time at the beginning of the month or week to plan out a realistic and static budget, but leave room for a few fun purchases.

Giving yourself structure with a little room for play will help you channel your need to spend into a healthier habit that will drastically improve the quality of your financial life.

Ask Why

Most of us indulge in instant gratification without realizing what we are doing. To truly break the mindset of believing that you deserve a reward, you have to begin to discover the why behind your actions. Give yourself the challenge to ask why in everything you do.

Take a week of your life, keep a journal, and write down the reasoning behind every action, no matter how small. Why did you go to the gym? Why did you pull an overnighter to get that presentation on your boss’ desk?

If it was just for a pat on the back, then you may want to question why you are doing these things in the first place.

* * *

Understanding what you want and what you value, and acting to reach those goals—instead of a reward—will help you do work for the sake of discipline and self-pride, as opposed to fleeting external praise.