If a tree falls in the middle of the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a noise? Obviously! The action, outcome and impact remain essentially the same whether there is observation or not. So, the question here is: If there is no-one around to witness your actions and outcomes, are they still important to you?
So often we base our success in the reaction we get from others. We get a compliment, earn a promotion, receive a good review or win a competition. We continue to take action in the arenas that earn us positive reactions from others. Lady Gaga sings “I live for the applause. Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me.” This is how we were conditioned by society – to please others and earn recognition and awards. Chasing public awards and recognition from other is a dangerous way to measure success. Some of our most important actions are rooted at a base level that is not competitive or may not be recognizable to others (unless you’re publicly announcing everything you do on a minute-by-minute on your social media streams). Prizes for some of our most important actions don’t exist.
Taking time to reflect on the personal rewards that you will experience as a result of your actions, and how you will acknowledge your own successes is critical to long-term motivation and perseverance. Knowing why what you are doing is right for you and how achieving your incremental goals will impact your big personal goals will give you the tools to stay engaged in your process, work through the tough stuff and recognize when YOU have noticed a change. When you detect changes, take note and inventory the personal reward you have earned. Your reward for consistent exercise may be better sleep quality, not something that anyone else will notice, complement you on or applaud you for. This is the essence of working for a reward and not an award. Nobody else needs to know but you!
When you work for personal rewards, chances are that over time, you will accrue more social awards than if you chase the awards themselves. Using the example of consistent exercise leading to better sleep (which it does), let’s agree that while others may have no idea that your sleeping habits have changed, they will notice your improved mood, increased ability to focus, higher work productivity and great presence in social interactions. All of the above will lead to social awards and a positive response from others. However, if your driving force is based in the achievement of the awards such as a raise, promotion or stronger social relationships, there is a strong chance you would work on obvious task in these arenas and prioritize them over your exercise regime leading to worse sleep quality and a downward spiral.
We’re living in a highly connected world where we are constantly given more tools to keep us tied to our social and career responsibilities and yet we are also told: “make time for yourself”. So, as you work to achieve your goals, to Best Yourself and keep up with the pace of the world, I encourage you to take the following key steps.
- Write down 3-5 personal rewards you want in your life – for YOU. Beside each one write your reasons as to why you want to achieve this reward.
- Record 1 small action you can take right away to work towards each of your personal rewards.
- For each action, determine how often it needs to be done.
- Schedule these actions into your week taking care to establish some type of a pattern or routine.
- Don’t skip your personally scheduled actions. Keep your written rewards and reasons handy in case of emergency!!
Being in control of your actions, knowing that you are working for a personal reward and not depending on a social recognition outcome will take off a lot of pressure to ‘get noticed’ and add a lot of personal motivation to earn your rewards and notice the personal impact you have, for YOU.
Disclosure: I have a personal goal to lose 5lbs in the next month. I doubt that anyone will notice the 5lbs come off or any changes in my diet or workout patterns. I’ve set this goal because I have a 6 day cycling challenge in Portugal, and being 5lbs lighter will make a huge impact to the load I am moving for over 100Km/day for 6 days straight. There are no prizes to be won. However, the reward of diminished workload and reduced fatigue is one that I am driven to work for. I have a reminder note I write myself when I’m mission and a timeline “NDO” stands for No Days Off – just a clear reminder that I’m the only one who will notice and nobody else is holding me to my plan.
What reward do you want that would drive you to adopt NDO??