Gold Stars

Gold stars—small, shiny, colorful symbols of achievement used to motivate children for years. Whether it is for good behavior, completing chores or doing well on an assignment, gold stars are valuable and worth showing off. But what if gold stars weren’t just for children?

As we wrap up the first month of this new year, I’ll admit that I’m working hard to become healthier in 2014. I’ve found myself more committed and motivated than ever. I’d like to think it’s because I really do care more this time, or because I’ve finally found some systems that work for me. If I’m honest though, I think there’s another factor in play, and it’s not because it’s my job to talk about growth and development every day that’s made me a more committed person.

Truth is, I’ve been earning “gold stars” just like kindergartners (although sadly, I don’t actually have the stickers). At the end of every day, I give myself credit for the goals I’ve accomplished by marking them off a weekly list of goals. That piece of paper stays on my kitchen counter for my roommate (who is doing the same thing) to see. At the end of the week, I report how many “stars” I get to a larger group of friends who are also committed to getting healthier.

There are three reasons why I think this approach is working for me, and maybe it will work for you:

  1. Specific–I knew exactly what I need to do every day to earn my “stars.”
  2. Small–the daily bite-sized goals are much more manageable than an overwhelming monthly goal like exercising 25 days this month.
  3. Public–I am accountable to people I trust about how many “stars” I earn each week.

This last one is probably most important, because some days, knowing that someone else will know if I succeed or fail is the ONLY thing that motivates me!

I’m not proposing that you all rush out and buy a pack of gold star stickers, but the lesson of the gold stars is important. Do you have a big goal, either personal or professional? If so, set some specific, small steps. Find a Developmental Relationship within which you can share your big goals, small steps, and on-going progress. Even better, find someone who wants to be encouraged, supported and challenged with their own goals.

If you want to go back to a simpler time, buy a pack of gold stars!