My eldest son has a probably common approach to personal reward.
Do nothing, and reward yourself for it.
Over the past several months I have badgered him about doing work for university. Unlike GSCE or A-levels, the qualifications in the UK learned at college or in school, where the teachers get on your back about getting work done and handing stuff in, a degree is nothing like that. At the age when you go to University, no one expects to have to chase you for anything. If you don’t do the work, then you don’t do it – you don’t get the grades, you don’t get through the year, you fail horribly. The whole business of university study deals with the concept of self-guided study and motivation. They tell you the subject matter and what assignments you will need to complete over the course of the year, and you decide how you’re going to approach fulfilling the expectations – or, better yet, exceed them.
My son appears to do the minimal amount of work and then fills the rest of his time with online games. For him, reward comes as a given, while the work bit can take a hike.
I don’t have a problem with games. I spent a lot of time thinking about, playing and writing them. Nothing would please me more than seeing someone playing a good game and have something to say about it at the end. I like to hear about good games, I like to get involved. However, I also think the best games come out of the experience of filling a moment of time with fun, excitement and discovery. You spend a lot of your time working hard, in some shape or form, so when you sit down to play a game it feels genuinely pleasurable, exciting and fulfilling.
If you play games 95% of the time and work vaguely in the other 5% where’s the reward? How can you glean any real enjoyment from gifting yourself with such a reward if you don’t have a baseline of less enjoyable stuff to work off? Isn’t that like getting hooked on a drug so badly that you take it simply to keep on a level, dragging your arse painfully along the rock-strewn bottom of the ocean. You end up playing a game just because it’s there and you have a lot of time committed to it. That just sounds like a different kind of work adopted to avoid the whole business of doing the first kind. Reward as stifling, eye-watering task.
My son seems to think I’m asking him to work 115% of the time. I asked him to do something for me, and when he repeated it back he added more clauses to the agreement – which, to be frank, pissed me off. I don’t expect him to spend all his time working his butt off – because that takes the ratio off in the other direction. If you spend 95% of your time working and the 5% left playing then you might well appreciate the play, but you probably didn’t do some of that 95% work justice. Work too hard and you end up delivering less. I don’t expect anyone to function like some robot, a manufacturing drone programmed to do nothing but mundane and soul-destroying acts of stuff.
Do 80% work in the time you have outside of meals, sleeping, hygiene and polite conversation, then filled the rest – the 20% – with varied recreation. I mean, don’t sit there doing one thing for the whole 20% – read a book, go for a walk, go out with friends, or whatever.
It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me – then again I’m a fuddy-duddy adult and he’s 20 years my junior…
NOTE: I have no clue what the picture has to do with this article… I just liked it.