What’s Your Incentive?

13 December 2011, by A. Cedilla

Made any plans lately?

Why are you doing the important things you do? Why are you drawing up the plans you’re making?

There’s got to be something that keeps you doing them, and when you get to know what that something is, you can surprise yourself with how many ways you can get more of that something into your life.

  • Your crazy hours are running you down, leaving you open to every sniffle and cough that presents itself. When your friends and family are still sleeping, you’re up, and vice-versa. You hardly get the time to have a meaningful conversation with any of them. You want to feel healthier and more connected to the people important to you. You want to keep to a regular schedule, and you struggle to do so.
  • You’re tired of scrimping and saving and feeling poor, dammit, but when you look around everyone’s in the same boat, and you’re not the only one hurting, so you put on the boots and keep going. Things won’t stay like this forever, and you end your 30-minute pity party to seize the day and kick its ass.
  • It sticks in your throat like you’ve swallowed a whole pineapple — or a grenade — but you don’t run, and you start that very important conversation that you’ve been meaning to have with your wife/boss/co-workers/employees/friends, etc. for weeks.

Thinking about how you think about things is called metacognition — And when you examine your way of thinking, you can uncover long-held biases you, haha, never though about. You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney’s website, lists down many of the ways we fool ourselves into thinking that we make unbiased decisions and hold balanced views.

When you actively become involved in “thinking about thinking,” you become more adept at seeing things clearly, as they are, not as you think on the surface they are. You develop clarity. When you see things clearly, with little illusion or self-delusions, you can act unencumbered by false information, inflated expectations and sketchy data.

You see what you truly need to live the life you’re happy with. You know what matters, and these things that matter to you are both goals and spurs.

Let me explain it this way: incentives are what comes after, they’re rewards. They are also what pushes you forward — the “compelling” behind compelling goals.

Taken from Wiktionary’s definition, an incentive motivates you to go for something. It encourages you to keep going, it can set you on fire for it or light a fire under you. (The word “incensed” is a very close cousin, not without reason). Reaching goals open up more choices for you. And it’s those choices that are your incentives.


  • That cleared credit score? Your unblemished record will enable you to get a higher credit limit and get better loans when you really need the money.
  • The lowered cholesterol levels and gradual weight loss? Lessens your chances of heart attack, preserves your joints and gives you more energy to move with, play with, and live life with.
  • That new habit of going to bed early so you can get up early? It helps you cut out the time-wasters and go for the heavy stuff, thus leaving you more time for really restful sleep, and more time in the morning to get ahead of the day.
  • Sticking to a budget and cutting down on impulse purchases? You’re keeping more money for the things that matter to you.
  • Getting rid of quarrelsome customers? You have a better pool of clients with whom to conduct a longer, mutually beneficial relationship.

What happens when you reach the goal is your incentive. THE HARDER THE GOAL, THE MORE CHOICES OPEN UP.


‘Labor’ is relative; hard work for one person is easy work for another–we each have our set points and limits– but one timeless reality is that wanting the goal enough sets you on fire and stretches you beyond what you thought were your limits. That’s where the hard part of ‘hard labor’ comes into play. How do you sustain the desire over time, and under the small pressure of everyday life?

Aligning this with all your plans for next year, keeping a list of your incentives in plain sight can serve as a constant reminder of what you’re working for.

In whatever form –bullet-point desktop wallpaper, a picture collage or a simple list, a daily record showing highs and lows– this helps keep things clear, simple and right in front of you. This gives you a target to focus on.

You have to keep going if you want to go anywhere — and your incentive is what will keep you going. It helps remind you why you want to keep the things you want to keep, take care of the things you want to last, and go after the things you want.

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