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Use the Reinforcement Principle, Part 6 (Get Things Done! #50)

  • Broadcast in Christianity
Daniel Whyte III

Daniel Whyte III


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Proverbs 16:3 says: "Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established."

Our quote for today is from Dwayne Johnson. He said: "Success isn't always about greatness. It's about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success."

Today, in the Get Things Done podcast we are looking at Part 6 of Step 8: "Use the Reinforcement Principle".

We left off talking how we should use positive reinforcers to reward ourselves when we reach our goals. Now, Edwin Bliss answers the question about the other side of the coin. Can't punishments be as useful as rewards in a self-administered program of behavior change?

A: As a general rule, no. There must be penalties, of course, in the sense of withholding the reward if the desired behavior doesn't occur; but to inflict pain or discomfort on yourself deliberately as punishment for having failed to measure up is generally ineffective.

Q: But what about the analogy of using both the carrot and the stick to get the mule to move? Shouldn't the same principle work with people? Can't we motivate ourselves with both the carrot and the stick?

A: Most psychologists caution that this is unwise, especially in a self-administered program. Your punishment should be simply depriving yourself of the carrot. Forget about the stick.

Psychologists have a term for the stick. They call it "aversive conditioning," and it is sometimes used in treatment of certain behavior disorders—but usually with someone else enforcing the punishment.