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How I tried to apply a reward system in order to motivate self-discipline and re-wire the brain in a positive way.

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A story about using a reward system in order to stimulate the motivation of doing the things that you love.

Every parent wants what is best for their kid. And every parent has his own reality, his own fears as well as his own dreams. Most of the times parents are infusing all these onto their children, consciously or not. Or at least they try. They try to put all their best into you so that you will rise above them and be a better version. That’s how our species evolve.

The way parents are managing to educate the child manifests throughout the years and influences the growth of the adult. In my case, I wasn’t educated with a reward system but rather by punishment. Bad deeds were punished, so I would learn from my mistakes. But the good deeds were left forgotten: “it is normal to do good, there’s nothing to reward”.

Unfortunately, this approach led me to do most things throughout my life because “I had to” rather than because “I wanted to” do them. Even things that I loved doing, in the back of my head I was doing them with an unsolicited “obligation”. Like photography. If I like taking photos, I HAVE to do photography more often. Not “want”. The problem with “have to” instead of “want to” is that I usually analyze the real necessity of this “have to”. So if it is not imperative, if there’s nothing bad happening (aka punishment) if I don’t do what I have to, I can skip it, delay it and feel good (and also guilty) about it. I think this is one of the reasons I don’t feel quite motivated in doing photography or actually anything I’d like to do and try. Because of my misplaced perception.

It doesn’t mean that all the photography I did so far was forced somehow. No. I just did photography whenever I had the opportunity: a camera with me, good subjects in reach. But I rarely went out of the comfort zone to do the things that I like, not only photography. I didn’t create an opportunity. I talked a little about this in my story about the Stockholm trip. Those photos were the exception from the rule: they were planned, I went there with those images in my mind.

introducing the reward system

So, I have recently learned that I have to re-wire my brain. I have to … See? I’m not there yet. I want to re-wire my brain, but I still think in terms of “have to”.

Before realizing this misplaced perspective, I tried to fix this lack of discipline and motivation in doing photography. I tried different methods like 1 photo every day for 365 days. Instead of just doing that, I upped the stake and ended up with a complex plan for a whole year with different types of photos each week, and a number of 3D models each month. So I could keep working and improving. Alas, it didn’t last a week.

The problem was that I am not used to doing things for wanting to do them. And one way to re-wire the brain in this regard is to use a reward system for your actions. To start doing them for rewards instead of “fear of punishment”. Until it becomes a habit. Yeah, like a dog. Like a good buoi.

Long story short, I planned a small photography project, very very general, that I should accomplish within two weeks. The theme was “Bucharest at night” and the target was ten acceptable photos. The reward? A photography book “On photography” by Susanne Sontag. At first, it seemed easy-peasy. Only that it wasn’t.

I had 14 nights and only managed to go out in three. With two selected photos in each of the first two nights, and the rest bulk of them on the third night which was literally the last night of the challenge.

“Bucharest at night” gallery

For the first night, I called a friend which made things more fun. We went to Piper bridges and we managed to capture some good scenes (see Metal embrace and Ballerinas in the gallery) even a long exposure of light trails, which I did not include in the gallery.

The second night was my endurance test in this challenge. It was really cold, rainy, but spectacular. Alas, the subjects in the area where I was weren’t so generous, but I managed to steal a few scenes (see Speed of night and Playing Frogger images in the gallery).

The rest of the images were shot on the third night, on a night walk around Cișimigiu Gardens park.

In conclusion, I have passed the challenge, got my reward but I got mixed feelings because I wasn’t happy of finishing the challenge at the last minute. I wanted to be more determined. But the feeling of reward, even it was from me for me, actually worked.

My first reward system prize
My reward. An excellent read so far.

Self-improvement is not easy. The hardest fights are within ourselves. One way or another, we win anyway. But what comes out of the fight matters the most. Using a rewarding system might be able to restart a positive approach of our daily activities. From time to time we need to pat ourselves the shoulder because we all are good buois. We just have to see that.

Have a good fight, friend!

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