Better to “Want” than to “Get”

Next time you announce a new incentive program, or the possibility of an award, start measuring productivity, well-being and satisfaction month by month until the actual award period, and for a couple of months afterward. 

The ANTICIPATION of a reward feels better than receiving the actual award and is more motivating. It is a quirk in the structure of brain’s reward system.

The Nucleus Accumbens is a part of our brain that plays a key role processing rewards like sex, food, and financial gains. Experiments have measured the activity level of the Nucleus Accumbens during the reward process. During the anticipation phase, activity level in this area is high. When the reward is received, activity levels in the Nucleus Accumbens drop off. Rewards, like making money, are well, rewarding …. :-) but people are more stimulated and motivated by the anticipation of the gain.

1. Plan longer-term rewards into the system and keep reminders visible.

2. When you want a higher than normal activity and productivity level, count on the period before the reward, not during or following it.

Keep layers of goals active for yourself AND for your team. Dreaming about future rewards helps people stay motivated to achieve goals that can only be earned through patience and commitment.