As we know after all these years, it’s challenging to maintain a commitment to change. And it gets worse as we age. Younger adults achieve their goals to readapt at a percentage twice as high as those over 60. This is true with New Year’s resolutions as well.

We could rephrase ‘Live and Learn’ to ‘Conscious but Change Avoidant.’ It’s not just me and you. It’s not even just older folks. Avoidance to transform is statistically startling. Overall, 90% of resolutions aren’t kept. Even that may be an optimistic figure.

More shockingly, studies indicate that 25% of all fresh resolves don’t make it a week. Clearly, that dismal record is why so many authors, bloggers and self-help instructors take time to help us discover new avenues. They seek unique roadmaps that might lead us down the path we claim we want to travel.

Rewarding yourself is not always the ‘no brainer’ it seems to be. One tactic we don’t concentrate enough energy on is reward – not reward for success, but reward for our effort. We are looking for progress, not perfection. Our determination itself deserves recognition, even if it lastly briefly.

What Do We Get from Keeping a Resolution?

There’s the bigger question as well. What do we get for keeping a resolution? Satisfaction? Less weight? Greater knowledge? Less TV? Improved strength? Healthier diet? Better use of time? More friends? Better self-esteem? Maybe.

Often, deep down we aren’t truly motivated by the end goals we assert in our resolutions. Secretly, we might even develop conscious or unconscious ways and reasons for sabotaging ourselves.

All this can become very complicated and in need of greater self-examination or professional guidance if one wishes to pursue it.

One Step at a Time

Less complicated is an on-going scheme of rewards – big or small – just for making some effort. What’s great about this method is that no one needs to know how tiny your baby-step effort is.

The thinner you can slice the efforts to earn rewards, the greater your chances are of success and enjoyment. Again, the aim is progress not perfection. If we agree that our aim is simply to try, then after the smallest exertion we have already progressed to some degree.

In the meantime, we have enjoyed a slice of life. Especially so if we choose rewards that are personally pleasurable – and neither contrary to our goals, nor based on someone else’s ideas of success and reward.

Here Are Some Reward Examples

  1. Call a friend long-distance and chat over a cuppa.
  2. Plan a trip (just the planning is fun – the date can be TBA).
  3. Treat yourself to a ‘Maid for the Day.’
  4. Get your car washed.
  5. Give yourself a couple hours at the library, browsing whatever strikes your fancy: books, art and magazines. Whatever. Just people-watching there can be fun.
  6. Take an extra-long nap.
  7. Get together with a friend and a joke book.
  8. Go bird watching (whether you can name one bird).
  9. Go on a games picnic – board games instead of food. If weather is not permitting, plan a last-minute game party at a friendly coffee shop where no one must ‘host.’
  10. Refurbish that ‘whatzamajigger’ item in the garage or attic or make a trip to the Salvation Army with it.
  11. Buy a piece of desired new software.
  12. Visit a comedy club.
  13. Light a fire in the fireplace.
  14. Hire a chimney sweep, so you can safely enjoy that old fireplace if it’s just sitting there unloved. (Hint: You could sneak this onto both the ‘to-do’ and reward list stimulatingly.)
  15. Take a ride on a swing.
  16. Go fishing.
  17. Create a personal mandala.
  18. Move the furniture in your home to a new position – just for a change of view.
  19. Take a drive on a road you have seen but never taken – the road less traveled.
  20. Treat yourself to a guilt-free hour of watching YouTube videos – just watch out that you don’t get addicted.

These rewards can be luxurious in time, money or sensation. You can adjust them to meet your pocketbook and the level of ‘effort’ you feel you have made. If you are reluctant to admit progress, let it be the reward you would offer a friend if they did the same thing.

And if you have put a resolution on your 2021 timetable – or prematurely put it to bed, more likely – consider penciling in some periodic prizes to encourage you onward.

If you resist making resolutions due to common failure rates, perhaps label a desired change with a more innocuous or contemporary sounding name. Maybe use ‘gold star’ points or ‘BSB’ (baby-step bonus) points instead. ‘Resolution’ can seem so daunting.

Still, no matter what the lingo, get the rewards in your datebook – a real date on your calendar – to enjoy yourself as deserved. The best thing about the baby-step bonuses is that you can’t lose.

With the right list, if nothing else, you are making extra time to enjoy life. And if it is something ‘more’… well, then you may get further ahead with changes than with your usual approach.

Either way, you win something. It may be like an honorable mention award for good attendance in second grade. Not a big deal, but I bet most people don’t throw that away. It’s acknowledging an effort.

I’d love to hear small rewards others have developed. Got a good one? Remember, it need not be big. And ‘inexpensive’ is an added benefit. Others may enjoy the same things as you but may not have considered the engaging power of certain activities. For now, here’s wishing you a baby-step in February.

What small rewards have you given yourself for making progress with your New Year’s resolutions? Have you been able to keep a resolution? Please share your tips and insights below.