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How To Create Non-Lasting Change

February 27, 2017

The quickest way to kill motivation is to reward it.

Oh sure, that’s just a provacative statement to hook you and then I’m going to later tell you how it was actually false.


I honestly believe it. And I think I can prove it. Let’s start with books. I love to read. At times I have to prevent myself from starting a book simply because I know that my love for reading will consume all of my time. I read plenty of non-fiction; business books mostly. But, I also love fiction. Louis L’Amore, the western writer is one of my favorites. Clive Cussler and his tales of adventures at sea is another. I loved Lord of The Rings as a kid, and I read most of the Harry Potter books.

My greatest joy was in seeing my kids develop a love of reading. The first time I caught them hiding a flashlight in their room to read late into the night, I had to act stern, but inside I was doing a happy dance. My granddaughter is almost 2 years old and in the few short months she’s been staying at our house, she’s developed a love of books. Goodnight Moon is a big hit at our house.

You know what would kill my kids love of reading?

If I started paying them for every book they read. And the bigger the incentive, the quicker they’d lose interest. It makes no sense. If they already love doing it and get satisfaction from it and I add an additional incentive, wouldn’t they love it twice as much?


If I started paying them to read, they would start to depend on it. Soon, they would be calculating how much money they could earn over the summer by reading. And then, when I eventually withdrew the incentive? They would be resentful.

My father was a professional card player when I was growing up. He supported a family of six on what he was making playing poker. Yes, he was that good. But, he hated it. It wasn’t fun. It was a job and a stressful job, with terrible hours and a lousy work environment. But, it paid the bills.

It also killed his love of playing games.

My entire growing up life, my father never once played a card game, or any game with me or any of my siblings. He explained to me one time why.

Rodney, it’s just too frustrating to play for free and get a good hand and know how much that hand would be worth in a poker game.

Basically, he wasn’t going to play if he couldn’t get paid for it.

My friend Howard Tayler is a cartoonist. When he was working as a software manager, he drew for fun. After he became a cartoonist fulltime, he had to develop another hobby. Drawing, while still enjoyable, no longer provided the intrinsic pleasure that it had when he was doing it for fun.

I work with a boy scout troop. For a while I incented them to wear their uniform by providing treats. And if any scout wore a more complete uniform than I did at a meeting, they got a large chocolate bar. I “allowed” them each to eventually “catch” me without my scout hat or scarf. Each boy who wanted to, including my two sons, eventually won the candy bar and promptly quit wearing their uniform.

Lasting change comes about because of intrernal not external motivation. If I want to change someone’s behavior for a day or a week, I can provide an incentive. But, when the incentive is gone, so is the behavior. And if someone is personally motivated to behave a certain way, the quickest way to kill that motivation is to tie it to a reward.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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