A bad way to motivate your kids (and yourself!)

The best form of motivation

So, you want to encourage your kids to develop a love reading. What do you do?

Give them a gold star after they’ve read for ten minutes or give them – nothing?

You would think it would be the gold star. What gets rewarded gets repeated. It’s not just kids. Doesn’t knowing you’re going to get a bonus for working harder or longer incentivize you?

Yes, but getting an external reward for doing something makes you think that the only reason you’re doing it is for the reward. You start to see the activity as a means to an end, rather than an enjoyable end in itself.

Give a kid a gold star for reading and he becomes externally motivated by gold stars rather than internally motivated by the joy of reading. No more gold stars – no more reading. But even while she reads, the quality of that reading is lower.

The promise of external rewards encourages us to produce the evidence required to get the reward – sitting with a book or spending hours at the office, rather than deeply engaging with the task. When we focus more on the reward than the work, we reduce the quality and creativity of our work.

Now, of course everyone needs to put bread on the table, so salary will always be a motivator. But ever thought that work is not some hateful, four-letter word. Work is purpose, meaning, and sometimes, fun! Besides, imagine a life without work, without the opportunity to focus your mind, solve problems, connect with a team, develop your skills, get recognized and add value.

No wonder that when people retire, they often get bored and die.

Want to deepen your motivation? Look for internal rather than external reasons. Notice the joy rather than just the salary.

As for reading, instead of giving your kids a gold star, give them a fun, age appropriate book and tell them how much fun reading can be. Make reading the reward for reading!

For more on how best to motivate yourself and others, do the Psychology of Success Course on the XLife Member’s Zone.

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Justin Cohen
Bestselling author
Speaker Hall of Fame Inductee
TV Show Host & Coach