Why Rewarding Yourself May Be a Bad Idea, for Habits.

better than before cover

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative.

My forthcoming book, Better Than Before, describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. 

Here, I talk about the Strategy of Rewards. I have to say, this is one of trickiest aspects of habits. There’s definitely a place for reward, but we have to think about it very carefully.


Rewarding good behavior sounds like a sensible idea—on the surface. But rewards have very complex consequences.

Rewards can actually undermine habits, so if I want to make a habit, I must use rewards in a very careful, limited way. It’s ironic: studying the Strategy of Reward means studying why we should mostly avoid using reward.

Have you ever had an experience where you rewarded yourself for cultivating a good habit, and then it backfired? Or have you successfully used a reward to take yourself deeper into a habit?



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