Are you currently struggling to find much to like about your life, or even yourself?
Maybe you’re wondering how other people can seriously be so happy and satisfied doing what they do? While doing exactly the same for yourself does not add much to your own pleasure?
If this is the case, you may want to up your intrinsic rewards game ASAP!
I just know too well what life can look like for someone who has not yet figured out how to be friends with themselves.
There is simply too much pressure.
Here, life as a whole can seem as if it consists of too many things we do not enjoy.
Getting up in the morning at an hour where we would never choose to leave the bed, for example, if this decision were ours to make.
Or sacrificing our precious energy to complete tasks society is expecting of us.
There are a lot of things we do to experience some kind of acceptance, but in return bring us nothing but an even greater feeling of rejection from within.
This Is Not Life’s Purpose
Living this way is boring and tiring and really so far from
You are feeling drained and exhausted for the best of all reasons!
Imagine your emotional state as a hard-knock on your door, with the Universe saying: “You’re not currently being what you were made to be!”
Because really your emotions are your internal guiding system!
What you are experiencing are society’s made up conventions and expectations, pulling on your left arm, while your life as it was originally intended to be, pulls on the right.
Once you picture this, you can see that with these two forces working on you, there’s no getting anywhere.
To free yourself from their grip you will have to pick one of them to work with.
But which side do you choose?
That’s a tricky question which might be a bit frightening at first.
So, I guess it would be a good thing to take a look at how you’ve possibly gotten yourself into all this in the first place.
My Condition, Your Condition, Everyone’s Conditioning
As children, we were born perfectly aware of our internal guiding system.
We followed our emotional compass intuitively until we were told that “life ain’t all fun and cakes”.
Once we were introduced to what we now know as responsibility and conventions, we were not only ordered to ignore our internal alarms but to totally override our emotions in order to always act accordingly.
You can bet our parents and teachers had a very hard time teaching us how to be-have because it required nothing less than to rewire our brains!
As children, or let’s say “untweaked humans”, we were expressing our emotions without a filter and only attempted to participate in what served us intrinsic rewards.
But when our parents perceived any action as unwanted, they proceeded to add an unpleasant experience to it.
And on the other side of this coin, we were being paid off, or let`s even say bribed. To behave in a specific way or to engage in unwanted activities, in exchange for extrinsic rewards.
The reality of this is conditioning and it’s nothing less than brainwashing.
Have you ever heard something like – “No one is responsible for your condition except yourself?”
Well, now you know that’s a lie.
But please do not feel tempted to now point your finger and blame. It’s not going to get you anywhere.
Rather, use this knowledge to identify and kick out all external opinions your current self-perception may still be relying upon. Regard this when/while raising your own children.
At least by now, there should be no more mystery as to why you’re feeling the way you do.
Moving forward, the good news is:
Life Is All Fun And Cakes
Life is all fun and cakes!
You just don’t happen to get any because of the crowd you’ve created in your head, standing in line in front of you.
As long as your intrinsic rewards system is not properly set up, you’ll keep on relying on extrinsic rewards – including how you’re being rated by others.
Your parents, your teachers, your friends, your colleagues, your superiors, your partner and possibly even your favorite barista. Not to forget all your invisible observers on social media!
What I want you to see, is that the cake is there, always.
In this analogy, the cake represents your intrinsic rewards.
The people in line are all getting their pieces, and you are serving them with your aim for acceptance, allowing everyone else to step ahead of you.
Which is why you never get to taste the cake yourself.
But instead, have a lot of tags to pictures of it on Instagram as thanks for your hostility.
Do those pictures feed you?
Or do they leave you craving the sugary sweetness even more?
You see, aiming for recognition and extrinsic rewards is useless when the goal is honest happiness.
The truth is, they’re adding to our misery just the same as they are leading us to give ourselves away for no real benefit whatsoever.
Become Friends With Yourself
So, “what to do?”, you may be asking.
The answer to this can only be one thing — to put yourself first!
I do not mean you should go around from now on and be selfish, but rather that you should detox from your dependency on external valuation.
Which means you need to become friends with yourself, first, and to spend some time on your own.
Solitude is not loneliness
As a therapist and life coach, a great number of people I’m working with have one thing in common: They do not know what to do with themselves while spending time on their own.
Unaware that the feeling of loneliness and boredom, are actually nothing but withdrawal symptoms of an addiction to recognition.
Many of us have forgotten how to exist without an audience.
We follow a belief which pretty much equates to thinking that a falling tree doesn’t make a sound if there’s no one there to observe it.
But you do not really disappear or turn mute when there is no one around, do you?
Try to imagine how much happier you could possibly be, if all this time spent alone in agony and inactivity, could be turned into a time of pleasure and joy!
All you have to do to get this is to recognize yourself and to feed yourself off of intrinsic rewards, instead of only gaining a sense of significance via external recognition.
And you can bet that I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t have an example to serve this exact topic.
The patterns we don’t see
In my life, I had quite a couple of phases when I didn’t know what to do with myself.
One of which was during my first marriage.
My husband was regularly working abroad, meaning I had a lot of time to spend in solitude. Staying home wearing sweatpants, hair undone, chilling on the couch watching Bollywood Movies.
Sometimes I would even extend my sleep to shorten my days because there was nothing much to fill them with.
And to be absolutely honest, I didn’t even eat properly because I didn’t see any sense in cooking for myself, nor did I feel much like keeping the apartment in a proper condition.
Which all was the total opposite of how I was when my husband was around.
When he was with me, I would wake up early in the morning before he did put on some nice clothes and even get my make-up done.
I was baking bread for breakfast, preparing tea with fresh peppermint leaves in fancy glasses, kept the house tidy – even ensuring a consistently nice scent – and would dance to my favorite music while preparing three-course dinners.
Written down like this, it is easy to see that I was relying on recognition and didn’t know anything about intrinsic rewards.
The fun part: back then I didn’t even recognize my patterns and needed someone else to point out my dependency.
Treat Yourself As A Guest
My brother had been staying over for some weeks, which we partly spent with my husband home before he again had to leave for work.
And because my brother was like an extension of myself, someone I would fear no judgment from, I didn’t change anything about my behavioral patterns and slid straight into apathy with him around.
He observed for three days how everything was going down and then addressed what he had observed in the best conversation I have ever had in my life.
“Why don’t you love yourself?” he asked.
“How can you do this to yourself? Do you really hate yourself so much, that you have to let yourself just dwindle away when there is no one to throw you a bone for what you can do?”
I will never forget this, for the rest of my life.
He drew a perfect picture of what I was doing and explained how I had based my entire existence around a dependence on external rewards and recognition.
As a result, I came to this conclusion — Treat yourself as a guest and do for yourself what you do to please everyone else.
Trust me, follow this advice and you will have your intrinsic rewards counter going through the roof.
Celebrate your me-time and be the king or queen of your castle.
Set your alarm 15 minutes prior to the time you have to get up, put on your headphones and listen to some party beats before getting your feet on the ground.
Drink a really nice coffee from a beautiful cup. Add sprinkles to it if you want to. Whatever you do, just make sure every sip is something to enjoy.
Rearrange your home in such a way that it serves you nothing but comfort and pleasure, and not as it might be best presentable.
Build yourself a blanket fort, if you like to.
Put your own art and photos on display, so you can always see what you do and who you are.
Prepare your bed like a hotel bed every day, so when you go to sleep you feel like you’re on a vacation. And yes, you can even leave a small treat on your pillow – you absolutely deserve it.
Be naked and eat Nutella from the jar.
Learn something new which you have absolutely no clue about yet.
Even if you fail a million times, with no one watching, it doesn’t matter.
Instead, be proud of yourself and imagine how you will show off those new skills once you have figured everything out.
Sing out loud.
Talk to yourself nicely.
Remember what you did as a teenager when your parents weren’t home.
And check out this Mindvalley Podcast of Krisina Lakhiani On Hacking Happiness.
Your Reward Is Freedom
In solitude your reward is freedom.
Use this time to play pretend for your own entertainment. Take a break from the act of make-believe, which is pretty much everything we do when surrounded by others.
Also, take advantage of the fact that there’s no one to judge, no rules and no have-to.
This is the time when you can be and do what you want to.
And if you still don’t know what this might be: Think of what you would do to entertain a beloved guest and then browse Pinterest.
Once you find out how to enjoy yourself, that feeling will keep on serving you while tackling your responsibilities and will silently drive you to break free from societal conventions.
That’s the magic of intrinsic rewards. It’s like fuel which never burns out.
Start celebrating yourself now!
How do you spend your time in solitude? Are you already friends with yourself? Let us know in the comments below.