Ideally, hard work should be its own reward. This is usually true, however it certainly helps to have some kind of motivation to actually perform hard work consistently. For example, in the case of full time indie game development, having a few rest days on a weekly basis gives you small, local goals to work towards while you pursue the large ones. If you feel like being grand, you could buy yourself a brand new development computer once your indie game takes off. Having a reward anywhere between these magnitudes will give you something to break down your long term goals into more manageable ones, and as a result you reduce the likelihood of being overwhelmed.
This isn’t to say you should reward yourself for everything you do on the way to your goal. While they’re obviously a good thing, having too many or having rewards that break habits are not. The key here is to make sure the rewards have meaning. If you reward yourself with an entire 2-liter of soda and a large order of bacon fries every day you stick to your diet you make a reward of junk food meaningless. Similarly, if you buy a new car to reward yourself for saving up loose change you’re invalidating whatever goals you had and also setting yourself back to square one when you try again.
Here’s an example of a good reward. If you wanted to play video games but knew you had to clean your house first, reward yourself a bit of game time in between each full room cleanup, like the bathroom or the kitchen. This breaks up the daunting task of cleaning an entire house and breaks it into smaller chunks that you can tackle. The video games are a good reward here because they’re only possible after actually completing the goals you set out to do in the first place.
Whilst rewards are a strong motivator to continue onwards towards a goal, roadblocks on the way to success can completely crush the dream. Everyone suffers setbacks in their personal journey, and this has been true as long as there have been people around. Thomas Edison threw several thousand swings at getting the lightbulb down, and although almost all of those swings were misses, there was a single success that mattered greatly in the end. Not everything will come easily, and this is easily forgotten by many as they give up their dreams when things don’t work out the first time around.
Nobody is perfect. As a result, eventually every single one of us will slip up while trying to change our habits in one way or another. When this happens, just acknowledge that a lapse did in fact occur, figure out why, and move on. If you are obsessing over failures, you’re not working towards your goals; the two are mutually exclusive. It’s much easier to forgive yourself rather than berate yourself, as one consumes all of your time and the other just takes a moment. Making mistakes or failing to adhere to a schedule is only human. If you continue to work through these events, you’ll come out ahead compared to what happens when you punish yourself for your failures, real or perceived.
Important Takeaways: It’s all about rewards, rewards, rewards. Break down a large task into manageable sections that you can tackle independently. No matter the size, they’ll help make sure you don’t get overwhelmed in the line of work. Although they feel great, if you’re too free with rewarding yourself then eventually the effect is nullified due to a lack of meaning. A good way of avoiding this fallacy is to only reward yourself after some goal is actually completed, such as taking a break after cleaning up a room of the house. In a similar vein, failures can often act as “anti-rewards,” making tasks more daunting to the point of giving up. The key is to realize that you’ll get more done by forgiving yourself and going on than berating yourself constantly and giving up in the end. Nobody is perfect, so when failure comes your way just brush it off after a simple reflection and keep heading towards your dreams.
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Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Leave a comment below, tweet at me @doandaniel, or send me an email.
I’m Daniel, Co-Founder of Black Shell Media & Co-Author of The Definitive Guide To Game Development Success — a super actionable eBook with the most self-explanatory title.