Developing a Success Mindset – Seeing Routines as Rewards Instead of Punishments

A mom and daughter doing yoga on a couch

We have often heard to others as either seeing the glass as half-full or half-empty. Inherently, this means they tend to be either optimistic or pessimistic in their outlook on things. Those with a more favorable perspective enjoy the power of positivity, which has been shown to increase quality of life. But there’s more to positivity than simply have a bright outlook and cheerful disposition. Whether we see each task we need to perform as a reward or a punishment also matters. In fact, it is this latter perspective that actually cultivates a success mindset and leads to goal achievement. It’s also the basis of the paradox of mindset. (For more on the nature of the paradox of mindset, check out this Notes From Ed!)

The importance of rewards cannot be understated. Behavioral psychologists have often suggested that desirable behavior can be encouraged through both rewards and punishments. Fear of punishment deters those actions we believe hinder our progress and well-being. The allure of rewards encourages us to pursue those things of value. But in developing a success mindset, the importance of rewards far outweighs that of punishments. Depending on how we see routines in our daily lives, we have an opportunity to better position ourselves for success.

 The Neuroscience of Rewards Versus Punishments

Recently, an experiment was conducted at a New York hospital to encourage hand-washing before staff entered patients’ rooms. Roughly, only 10 percent of the staff did so at baseline. Initially, information about the risks of not washing one’s hands was used to promote the desired behavior. But this had a limited benefit. In contrast, positive messages that complimented staff each time they washed their hands resulted in marked improvements. In fact, this alone increased hand-washing behaviors to 90 percent.

This simple experiment highlights the importance of rewards and how it can foster a success mindset. Rewards tend to trigger action whereas punishments do just the opposite. This aligns well with what neuroscientists now known about the brain. Rewards trigger the release of dopamine from the limbic system deep in our brains. In turn, dopamine then stimulates our motor cortex to take action. However, punishment or fear of a bad outcome causes a different reaction in the brain. This stimulates our midbrain region, which leads to inhibition of other brain areas. In short, rewards encourage action while punishments trigger inaction.

Understanding this, we are much more likely to achieve our goals when we’re proactive and take action. By envisioning tasks needed to achieve these goals as rewards, we’re more inclined to perform these essential routines. But if we see these same tasks as drudgery or even punishments, the opposite is true. If we truly want to create a success mindset and achieve our goals, the way we frame necessary activities matters. We must recognize the importance of rewards and the role they play in this process.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Paradox of Mindset
Arnold Schwarzenegger viewed his toughest workouts as rewards–the truest example of the paradox of mindset!

A Fixed Mindset, Growth Mindset, and Success Mindset

Carol Dweck is a well-known psychologist who has studied mindset and the importance of rewards extensively. She distinguishes between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset in those pursuing goals. Those with a fixed mindset believe only innate talent can enable them to succeed. As a result, they’re less likely to put forth effort and are unable to see the importance of rewards. In contrast, a growth mindset is one that recognizes that hard work, commitment, and learning can make all the difference. These individuals embrace the importance of rewards in attaining self-improvement goals. These positive outcomes continue to drive them further in achieving their long-range plans.

To take this a step further, we can use rewards to create a success mindset as well. A success mindset is certainly a growth mindset. But by recognizing the importance of rewards, a success mindset shifts the way we look at daily routines and tasks. For example, if we want to get in better shape, we can envision each gym exercise in a positive way. Instead of seeing each exercise as exhausting, we can see how each rep is getting us closer to our goal. As science suggests, this will motivate us to take action and create healthy habits. This is how a success mindset evolves, recognizing the importance of rewards and the benefits of growth.

A success mindset can be applied to any goal you wish to accomplish. If you want to eat healthier, then you can view a better diet as a means to feel better. In doing so, you become inspired to make better choices in your diet. In contrast, seeing a healthy diet as missed opportunities to enjoy desserts or comfort foods undermines your abilities. If seen as a reward, it will be easier to embrace good behaviors. If seen as a punishment, you’ll be more inclined to fall short of your goals. For those wanting to develop a success mindset, the importance of rewards should be appreciated.

Boldy Paradox of Mindset Happy Sad
Would Boldy see the same success if he viewed things positively or negatively?

The Paradox of Mindset

No matter what routine tasks you perform, each can be seen as either positive or negative. This has been described for exercise and diet goals. But it can apply to any set of goals ranging from career, to education, to other bold life areas. This has been referred to as the paradox of mindset, since every activity can be linked to either reward or punishment perspectives. By recognizing this dichotomy, it then becomes possible to shift our perspective to better cultivate a success mindset. By understanding the importance of rewards in motivating behavior, we can leverage this strategy to attain greater success.

In pursuing our boldest life possible, it’s important to establish inspiring goals that drive our passions. But the tasks required in pursuing such goals can still be difficult at times. In order to improve our abilities in staying the course, it’s important to re-frame how we see these tasks. By acknowledging their positive benefits, our motivation for performing these routines increases. Naturally, this takes practice and effort, but in time, this becomes easier to accomplish. As commonly stated, success breeds success, and this applies to a success mindset as well.


The world is getting back to business. Are you ready to join it? Get the acclaimed book that can help you live Bold!

About the Author

Through timely and thoughtful articles, the book Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success, and other media, we deliver engaging content that educates, motivates and inspires you to live a Bold Life.
Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This will close in 0 seconds

This will close in 0 seconds

Send this to a friend