15 Ways To Treat Yourself: How Rewards Can Help You Succeed

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The TV show Parks and Rec made the idea of “treat yo self” synonymous with over-the-top rewards. And while a day full of luxury might be a bit much, treating yourself to little rewards as you pursue a big goal can help you stay motivated and positive.

Why should I reward myself?

Rewards are often seen as something that comes at the end of a big project or goal. While a reward at the end of a big endeavor is a great way to celebrate, finding ways to reward yourself with little things along the way to your accomplishment can help keep you engaged and avoid burnout and resentment.

Remember that rewards look different for each person. Reflect on the best ways to reward yourself so you know what works specifically for you. You want your reward to be satisfying and a special treat, but not something that will impede your progress. Some people may choose a glass of wine and a movie on the couch, while others decide to try a new workout (or, if you’re like Ben in Parks and Rec, wearing a Batman costume).

Rewarding yourself can help prevent burnout. 

It’s not just personal goals that need rewards, either. Finding ways to reward employees (and yourself!) at work is also essential. 

As this 2023 study from Sweden found: a lack of rewards at work can lead to burnout and affect an employee’s mental health. While working hard can be its own reward, for many, being acknowledged and receiving small, thoughtful rewards and praise helps people feel appreciated and motivated. 

Three more benefits of rewarding yourself 

Not only can you help stave off burnout by giving yourself small treats, but rewarding yourself for your accomplishments also helps you with:

  1. Motivation: Giving yourself small rewards along a journey to lose weight, save money or get out of debt can keep you motivated, even if you’re feeling down. Progress is not linear, so when you feel down or can’t keep going, reflecting on the smaller steps you’ve accomplished and the rewards you’ve already unlocked can be a great push to keep making progress.
  2. Reducing procrastination: Knowing you have something to look forward to can help you move through an unpleasant task faster. Promising yourself a small treat for getting through the dishes, folding laundry or making an unpleasant phone call can help you buckle down and get to the other side.
  3. Encouraging resilience: Learning to trust yourself can be difficult, especially if you have tried and failed in the past to achieve a long-term goal. The more small steps for which you reward yourself, the more proof you have that you can trust yourself to set and stick to a goal.

Putting on your new running shoes as you head out the door for marathon training or giving yourself a mid-afternoon break after completing an arduous work task can be a physical reminder of all you have achieved and something to point to when you don’t feel like you can keep going. 

How to pick a good reward 

While there are a lot of benefits of rewarding yourself, and it can be beneficial to work rewards into your self-care routine, it’s essential to pick the right type of reward. Understanding why you should reward yourself for your accomplishments can be different from actually giving yourself healthy rewards during a long process.

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For some, learning how to reward yourself can take a little practice. Consider the following to help you stay on track.

  • Break down your current goal and process it into tiny steps. Make note of when each of these is accomplished—not just the giant end game, which might be months or years away.
  • Bake failure into your rewards system. Real achievement requires risk and failure, and learning from mistakes. Instead of focusing solely on what goes right, like landing a new deal, focus on goals reached, such as the number of proposals sent out or pitching a dream potential client you might have been too timid to approach.
  • Make rewards healthy. A drunken night out as a reward for beating your sales goal has lots of negative baggage attached to it, compared with spending time with an old friend or investing in an education course, a fitness class or in beautifying your home.
  • Involve loved ones. Invite your family, friends and colleagues to join you in your celebrations, even if it is a small gesture, such as asking your partner to join you on a hike to celebrate accomplishing an arduous to-do list.

15 ways to treat yourself for reaching your goals 

  1. Create a to-do list item, and cross it off your list. A reward doesn’t have to be big to be satisfying. If crossing something off a list makes you smile and energizes you, load up your calendar and start crossing things off the list.
  2. Play with your kids or pets. After a long day or tense work session, give yourself a mental and physical break by spending 15 minutes playing with your family members. A game of fetch with your dog or tag with your kids can help you relax, get your blood moving and refresh you to tackle the rest of your to-do list.
  3. Make a cup of tea. While coffee can be a great wake-up, a cup of tea in the afternoon can feel like a treat. It’s also an excellent opportunity to reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Add a couple of cookies or some chocolate for a true treat.
  4. Take a nap. Few things can feel as decadent as taking a nap in the middle of the day. Even if it’s just 20 minutes, resting helps you feel refreshed and ready for the next obstacle.
  5. Have a dance break. Dancing in your kitchen is seriously underrated. Cue up your favorite dance music and boogie down.
  6. Go outside. Getting into nature can help reset and recharge your brain. After completing a work session, take some time for a walk or find a bench to sit and enjoy the fresh air.
  7. Try a new puzzle or art project. You will give yourself a mental break and tap into your creative side by trying a new puzzle or craft that entices you. If puzzles aren’t your thing, try watercolors, sketching, knitting or something creative that piques your interest.
  8. List all you’ve accomplished. Sometimes recognizing your achievements can be challenging. Take a moment to write down all of the progress you’ve made. Then post the list somewhere you can see it every day (like your bathroom mirror), and congratulate yourself on your achievements.
  9. Take a long bath or shower. A hot bath, your favorite beverage and a book can be a decadent (and cheap) reward or a lovely addition to your self-care routine.
  10. Make your bed. A freshly made bed with clean sheets is a great way to celebrate a job or task well done. If you can, consider buying new bedding that feels luxurious. But even putting clean sheets on your bed and enjoying climbing in after a long day can be highly rewarding.
  11. Try something new. Treat yourself to a new product, piece of clothing or accessory you’ve been eyeing. While you don’t want to go overboard, especially if you are rewarding yourself for saving money or getting out of debt, trying something new can be a big boost.
  12. Watch your favorite movie. Pop a bowl of popcorn, and settle in with your favorite movie. It could be a childhood favorite you haven’t seen in forever or a more recent film that always cheers you up or inspires you to keep moving forward.
  13. Doodle. Give yourself some space and time to free draw. You don’t have to draw anything formal, but squiggly lines, flowers or whatever you feel like can be a small treat and give you a gateway into brainstorming.
  14. Plan a (mental) trip. While taking a vacation may not be in the financial cards at the moment, planning your dream trip can be fun and doesn’t cost any money. Spend time researching fancy hotels or activities you’d usually never consider in your location of choice and have fun daydreaming.
  15. Do nothing. Give yourself the reward of doing nothing. Spend five minutes sitting and focusing on your breath. 

Emma Johnson contributed to this article. Photo by Rido/Shutterstock.com

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