No one knows who started the trend. But at some point in the late 1700s, American retailers began giving out copper tokens to customers when they made purchases. The original intent was to incentivize customers and thank them for their loyalty.
During the 1800s, companies found handing out copper coins was too costly. So they switched to using stamps. Stamp usage for customer loyalty was so common that in the 1960s S&H Green Stamp Company produced more stamps than the US Postal Service.
These loyalty programs continued to evolve over time. In 1929, Betty Crocker introduced box tops. Those tops were exchangeable for brand-name kitchenware at a discount from the Betty Crocker catalog. And in 1979, Texas International Airlines launched the first frequent flier program for their customers; within years, every other major airline followed suit.
Acquiring new customers costs a 5-25x more than retaining current clientele. So it makes good business sense to incentivize your most loyal customers by offering rewards for repeat purchases.
Your brain as a human being gets super excited for rewards. And this is thanks to the cognitive process known as incentive salience. Incentive salience confers a “desire” or “want.” This desire or want usually involves some sort of reward.
So: desire + reward = the motivation to seek out what it is you desire.
Incentive salience is essentially your “motivational magnet” that pulls you closer to your reward. And, it’s the desire to attain your customer loyalty goal that induces an approach to seek out and gain this reward. So if it’s a free coffee you’re after, your approach is to return to Starbucks every day and buy a coffee to gain the necessary “star(s)” to unlock your reward.
You use rewards programs every day at your local coffee shop or Starbucks. So, why don’t you have a Rewards Program for your health and fitness goals?
Create a Dream Vacation Rewards Program
Do you easily succumb to the temptations of fast food? Do you also dream of flying off to somewhere tropical?
Here’s a way to win at both. Every time you skip Taco Bell, McDonald’s, or Chick-fil-A transfer the money you would have spent into a “dream vacation fund.”
So, instead of eating out at lunch 2-4 times a week, you opt to make your meals at home and take them to work. That means the $6-7 a day you were spending on fast food gets deposited into your dream vacation fund. Skipping lunch out means you’re saving $12-$28 every week. Or, $48-$112 in a month. Now, do that over 12 months, and you’d have $576-$1,344 of extra money.
And, if you transferred the money you would have spent eating lunch out into your “my ass is going to Fiji” fund, within a year you’d lose God only knows how much weight, and you’d be on your way to Fiji (or wherever it is you wanna go).
Create a Self Care Rewards Program
Opted to not go out Saturday night for pizza and wings? Cool, transfer that money into a “self-care” fund. Use that money to get a massage, a pedicure/manicure, or use it to buy bubbles for a super long amazing bubble bath.
Both of the above options can also work to build and maintain the habit of going to the gym too.
Create a Workout Rewards Program
So, let’s say you struggle to consistently hit the gym. Like you want to go 3-4 times a week but find that you can barely make two.
Don’t berate yourself for being a failure and eventually say, “Fuck it! If I can’t make it three times, why even go at all?” You could, like Starbucks, give yourself a reward after a certain number of workouts.
Example: For every 12 workouts you complete, you then reward yourself with a new video game or a nice bottle of whiskey.
Matt Furlow, a member of my men’s group coaching program, did this exact thing in his quest to lose 70 pounds. He reached his first goal right before Thanksgiving and picked up a delicious bottle of whiskey. Now, it’s on to buying a new game (and eventually a new suit).
Here’s the thing, though. Rewards programs (for the most part) give you something tangible as a marking of progress. Whether it’s stamps, a punch card, or the gold stars Starbucks gives you for buying your daily coffee, you have a way to tally your progress.
For my client Matt, he has the accountability of The Pack to make sure he’s staying on track. But what do you do if you have no accountability or way to track if you’re making progress?
The Win/Lose/Draw Calendar
When it comes to fat loss, how many times have you given up because you used the end goal to determine whether you were progressing or not? If you’re using your end goal as your determining factor of success, you’re gonna be hella disheartened.
So you have 50 lbs to lose. And sure, it’s cool that you’ve lost ten pounds already. But who gives a flying monkey’s butt about ten pounds? God, you still have forty more to lose. And at this rate, you’re never gonna get there. Might as well give up. Because right now it’ll be easier to gain those ten back than to lose the next forty. Fuck it. Where’s the nearest Golden Corral?
If the above describes you, stop that shit. Stop it right meow. Because here are the 14 most important words you’ll ever read:
Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. – Dr. Jordan Peterson
How do you do that?
Well, instead of using the scale or a tape measure to determine progress, you could use one The Win/Lose/Draw calendar. It looks like this.
To use it, select three different colors, for example:
Green = WIN
Red = LOSE
Purple = DRAW
Place this calendar in a prominent place where your eyes will catch it numerous times a day — on your fridge, by your bed, or wherever you keep your shoes.
Every day that you nail your macros and get a workout in, color the date GREEN (WIN). Go over more than 150 calories on your macros but you got your workout in? Or, you nailed your nutrition but missed your workout, color the date PURPLE (DRAW). Uh oh, did you go completely off the rails with your nutrition and miss your workout? Color the date RED (LOSE).
The goal of this calendar is to stack up as many wins as possible. When a LOSE or DRAW happens, you’ll hate seeing that long line of GREEN broken. This is a great visual tool to keep you accountable and challenge your own self to keep the streak of WINS going.
Reward Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self
Punch cards and the Starbucks apps are great for giving you a visual of your progress. But when it comes to fat loss, you can’t trust the scale to give you an accurate representation of your progress. And even if you tell yourself that you’re gonna celebrate your wins, you’ll likely to still beat yourself up for not being where you want to be already.
Using the Win-Lose-Draw calendar pits you against yourself. And that’s really the only competition you have in this thing. So, if you beat yourself and win day after day, why not then give yourself a reward for sticking to your health goals?
Gamers have been practicing incentivization for years. Every tick of XP you gain on a quest or mission rewards you for your actions in the game. And those actions lead you to “level-up.” At a new level, you can choose new abilities or weapons. Or, you just unlock a new level entirely, starting the whole process over again.