When you are doing all that you can possibly do, and you are successful at reaching your expectations, keep doing it. Success is one of the best forms of motivation. Psychologists call this positive reinforcement. We all know about positive reinforcement. That’s how we train our dogs. That how we teach our kids.
When you bring home a new puppy and try to teach him not to mess in the house, what do you do?
You reward him for going outside or for scratching at the door. When you’re trying to get your toddler out of the diaper stage, what do you do? You reward him with special presents. You make him feel special for learning something new. When you’re trying to get your older kids to crack the books and study, what do you do? You reward them when they get good grades. You teach them that the skills they are developing now will have positive effects on their lives later. And you do that by rewarding them now.
This is positive reinforcement: Learning that there are rewards for doing something good, something worthwhile, something of value. The greater the value, the greater the reward. The better you do, the better your reward. A bigger paycheck, a better house, financial freedom—it’s all a reward system.
There are two major benefits of positive reinforcement:
1. Positive reinforcement builds good habits.
If the habits you’re practicing are increasing your success, keep doing them. Your success is reaffirming that these habits are good. Your success tells you that you need to keep doing what you are doing. By reviewing the habits that lead you to success, you reinforce them. You give them staying power.
Here’s the other side. By reviewing your habits, you might find out that some of them are inhibiting your success. You might find out that what you’re doing every day is bad for you. Or you might realize that you’ve stopped practicing some very good habits. Somebody says, “Well, I’ve just gotten out of a bad habit of taking my daily walk around the block.” Well, I guess you’ll just have to get in the habit of being sick later on. Somebody says, “Well, I used to read books all the time; I’ve just gotten out of the habit.” Then change it. Get back your disciplines. If you’ve “just gotten out of the habit,” just get back into the habit. It’s called discipline.
2. Positive reinforcement creates the energy to fuel additional achievement.
It gives you the drive to do more, to not only keep on doing what’s right, but to do more of what’s right. The knowledge that what you’re doing is paying off creates more energy to keep going.
How easy is it to get up in the morning when you know you’re not doing all that it takes? It’s not very easy at all! You can just lie there, awake, thinking, Oh, what’s a few more minutes in bed. It won’t matter much anyway. Wrong! It does matter. It will matter. How easy is it to get up in the morning when you’re anxious to make progress toward your dreams? It’s a whole different story.
When you’re resting to renew your reserves, it’s much different than resting to avoid your day. When you’re psyched up and excited about life, when you’re excited about what you’ve planned to accomplish for the day, it’s amazing how you’ll wake up long before the alarm clock tries to startle you awake.
Your successes fuel your ambition. Your successes give you extra energy. Your successes pave the way for more successes. It’s the snowball effect. When you achieve one success, you’re excited to meet another… and another… and another. Pretty soon, the disciplines that were so difficult in the beginning—the disciplines that got you going—are now part of your philosophy. And they keep you going.
Adapted from Leading an Inspired Life