• Carrot or the Stick

    August 23, 2017
  • Many of us have goals, resolutions, those things we know we should do or really want accomplish but something tends to get in the way.

    But MOTIVATION is a big part of us achieving the goals we have. There are two common approaches to this instilling motivation: the “carrot” approach and the “stick” approach.

    Let’s take the example of working on your fitness routine – moving regularly. Regular physical activity is important. Engaging in at least 150 minutes or regular physical activity each week reduces risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. If you are human in the U.S.A. it is likely that you have a risk for at least one of these (or like me, all of them). It also helps relieve stress, helps reduce pain and helps with many physical and mental conditions.

    So in this case – what is the difference between the carrot and the stick approach?

    STICK = beating you, berating you, yelling at you, making you feel guilty (even if it is just those voices in your head) about the negative consequences of not exercising or eating healthy, and maintaining a healthy body weight and body fat percentage; worrying about risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity and a slow, miserable, untimely death. It’s not a stick, but a whip you are trying to duck.

    CARROT (or carrot cake?) = encouraging you, coaxing you, moving you forward to the reward of when you exercise and eat healthy how much better you feel. Maintaining a weight and body fat percentage just happens as part of the process. While there are still risk factors for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and weight gain because of family history, but they are reduced. The reward is a healthier life that you enjoy to nearly the end.

    What is your carrot?

    Personally, I need lots of carrots or rewards. As a morning exerciser, I get up at 5 am. I would love to sleep or stay in bed until 9 am. Personally, if I did that, would never fit in exercise, or I would fit it in a lot less than I do now (that’s me).

    I reward myself for the baby steps. Now I don’t do daily or weekly rewards; that reward is the personal satisfaction and feeling good about the accomplishments. I do have monthly rewards. At the end of each month, I get a mini-reward for completing 85% of my planned workouts. In case you are wondering, that allows one skipped day per week on my schedule.

    Mini rewards include buying that thing I have been wanting, but don’t need; a pedicure; a planned personal day (or afternoon) off just for you; a new fitness gadget; a cupcake… Generally, nonfood rewards, but once in a while for a special occasion, I say go for it, as long as it doesn’t take you backwards with your goal. Two steps forward, three steps back?

    Large rewards mostly include a one hour massage or other spa treatment or a celebratory dinner. Large rewards are usually following a race or event that I successfully completed or three months of doing 85% of my workouts.

    Not every needs a bunch of carrots like me (incremental, multiple rewards); a single carrot is just fine. But I have noticed that if I don’t plan those rewards, the snooze button is worn out and workouts are skipped.

    What are your carrots? How do you motivate yourself?