[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Past posts clarified that reward differs from the emotions that bring it about — so you know you can get reward from any emotion, not just so-called “positive” ones — and the differences between reward, happiness, and pleasure in the Model. I’ll clarify again a common language challenge in talking about these things, that what I call reward some people may call happiness. I hope terminology doesn’t get in the way of meaning.
In the Model, reward is both physically central, as in the diagram, and perhaps the central concept driving what we do with the Model. As an emotion, it lies at the root of our self-awareness and understanding. As the central element that only occurs when everything else aligns, reward becomes what we want in life.
We feel reward when our environment, beliefs, emotions, and behavior all align. When one doesn’t align, we don’t feel reward. We feel emotions of conflict, like impatience, disappointment, stress, confusion, etc.
Personally, I’m only slightly simplifying things to say my main goal in life is to bring about reward (what some call the pursuit of happiness) and developing resilience to punishment. I use my awareness to understand where my life lacks reward or could have more, then I use the Method to bring about more reward, which amounts to adjusting my environments, beliefs, and behaviors. A future series of posts will cover the Method, like this series on the Model.
The result of adjusting your environments, beliefs, and behaviors is your lifestyle.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, which happens when I talk about reward. Reward is rewarding — it motivates you to do more of it.
Another important concept about reward is that, as an emotion, it also has characteristics like emotions do — the same relevant ones: pleasure/pain, intensity/subtlety, complexity/simplicity, and short/long duration.
If each characteristic could have only one of two values, the four values could give sixteen types of reward. For example, eating a fine meal may have reward that is pleasurable, subtle, complex, and short-term. Finishing a marathon may have reward that is painful, intense, complex, and long-term. The reward of drinking water when you’re thirsty may be pleasurable, intense, simple, and short-term. If you work out the number of combinations, you get 2^4, or sixteen.
Given all these combinations of characteristics, to say my goal in life is to bring about reward through creating a rewarding lifestyle says more than you might think. I want reward of all these different combinations. I want long-term reward and short-term reward. Reward that comes with pleasure as well as reward that comes through pain.
Since each characteristic can take on any value, not just two, reward can come in an infinite variety of ways, making this goal in life infinitely rich, satisfying, and rewarding.
Also, since reward comes from harmony between environment, belief, and behavior, not completing things, you can get reward all the time, not just when you complete tasks or cross finish lines. Reward being part of the process means using the Model and Method can make your life rewarding all the time. You don’t have to wait or hope for something in the future. In fact, you want the opposite — to improve your life all the time, an inherently rewarding process.
These last two paragraphs contain some of the most important parts of the Model — that you can get reward all the time, including now, and that reward comes in infinite variety. I’ll have to repeat them again somewhere.
Now that we’ve covered each element in more depth, tomorrow we’ll return to the concepts of awareness, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, which we can treat more clearly and precisely now.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book