I have seen that most websites out there almost always talk about the importance of positive reinforcement within your life. Specially when you want to achieve something like weight loss, diet changes, regular exercise, etc positively rewarding yourself whenever you get to one of your milestone goals seems like a good idea. Of course, these rewards are important and they make up and important part of any life changing plan but most of these websites do not look into the power of negative reinforcement. On today’s article I will discuss with you some aspects of negative reinforcement and why it may be a very good and complimentary option for people who struggle a lot to reach their medium term goals.

Of course, negative reinforcement implies that you will not only be rewarding “good behavior” (achievements) but that you will be punishing your “bad behavior” (falling outside the plan), however it is of course not a good idea to suggest anything that may be detrimental to your health or to your life in general but some small things you can do to “punish” yourself when you do something “wrong” that will make you really stick to your longer term goals. Obviously you will have to apply these negative reinforcements to yourself so commitment to reach your goals is still necessary to make the plan work.

So what are some of these techniques you can use ? I have found out that building a scale of negative reinforcement is necessary to “punish” yourself when you go in the wrong direction. You need to think about different things you would want to do depending on which things go wrong. To start you should build scale from 1 to 5 and place one negative reinforcement item on each number, then assign a given “wrong action” to each one. For example if you are trying to change to healthy eating habits and you go out of your plan more than twice a week then that is 5, three times a week 4, two weeks in a row of disobedience 3, and so on.

What punishments can you inflict that will give you a lesson but not be detrimental to your health or life style in anyway ? I have found that one of the easiest ways in which this can be done is to expose yourself to public ridicule. Most people are deadly afraid of being regarded as odd by others so applying punishments to yourself that will make others notice you in a funny/unusual way usually work very good. For example, you will draw an X with a marker on your forehead on level 5, wear a clown nose on 4, dress all yellow on 3, etc. Then make yourself go shopping or out to dinner with these outfits and you’ll find out that the actual negative reinforcement of ridicule and the fact that you will have to go through this again will make you refrain from repeating your mistakes.

There are also some others ways to cause negative reinforcement. For example, if you are on a diet and you want to quit eating junk food then you can simply pretend that every time you go to a fast food restaurant that restaurant disappears from the map. The fact that each time you want to fulfill your craves you will have to look for new places, drive further and spend more money and time will most likely make you refrain from doing this things.

The actual limit is in your imagination and you can combine these things or other creative non-threatening punishments to make yourself stick to your long term goals. Some ideas like standing at the center of a mall with a “hugs for free” sign are not only creative but actually stimulate human contact and provide you with some experiences you will be telling for your whole life !

Now the point is that you need to apply these “punishments” to yourself and doing so requires you to maintain your longer term goals in perspective and stick to the plan. Having negative reinforcements also allows you to “cheat” without feeling depressed as you are being “punished” by your own hand. In effect this allows you to eliminate behavior you want to avoid in the long term and become more committed and more centered on your long term goals.