“Running Rocks” {Motivation, Reward Substitution, & My Jar of Rocks} 


So I started writing this post about a year ago! Just now getting around to finishing it up. Oops. To be honest, a lot of my posts go that way. I start them and then I cycle back to finishing them. Anyhow, the original intent of this post is still important, but I have other reasons for coming back to it now too. I’ll get to those later, but first, I will start with the part of the post I wrote last year…

All of us have goals. Some are fairly short-term and easy to attain, others are more in the category of long-term goals. Things that are large enough that we already know they will take time and require a lot of discipline if we expect to see them come to pass. The downside here is, because they are so far off and lofty, it can be difficult to take action and to self-motivate since there is no immediate payoff.

If you recognize this dilemma, and want to overcome it, then the next logical question becomes, how do you make long-term goals seem more impending? And, more specifically, how do you motivate yourself to take action on a goal that is long-term?

It’s understandably easier to take action on short term, immediate-results/easy payoff type of goals. However, when a goal is less tangible, it can often cause motivation to dwindle.

One tactic is using a technique called reward substitution. This is a process by which you take the results (or rewards) of a goal that are too far in the future to actually act a as an effective motivator to your present self and substitute in a more immediate reward. The immediate ‘reward substitute’ acts as a stand-in until the actual desired outcome is eventually achieved.

For more on reward substitution and ideas on how you can implement it, check out this video.


Interesting no?? For me specifically, it can be helpful to create a visual substitution for myself when it comes to a goal that’s farther out of view.

Take my relationship with running for example… As you have probably gathered, I am more of a “lift the heavy things” kind of girl, and have never been a runner, and definitely not a fast one. Seriously, I use the term ‘running’ loosely… it is more like jogging at a pace that some would be able to power walk 🤣

The reason I decided to work on my ‘running’ was because I always told others (and myself) “I’m not a runner.” It dawned on me that it might be a good reason to do the thing I had avoided, just for the sake of the mental growth I would gain from it (#WhatCanBeGained). I also wanted to prove to myself that I could improve, even at something I wasn’t naturally inclined to perform well at. Some extra cardio every now and then wasn’t a bad idea either. 😉

You can imagine how it would be hard to motivate myself sometimes to go for a run when the immediate pay off (things like a faster run time or more muscle definition) is not immediately apparent upon completing the run. I was also looking for a way to make the process of going for a run fun in and of itself, rather than just being about the payoff. So, as I often do, I looked to psychology to start brainstorming ways to solve the problem.

I happened to come up with a way to make use of something I did find apparent at the end of each run. Something that at first seemed random and annoying, but which as it turned out, I could actually make use of.

I noticed after running one day that I was always having to remove the rocks that stuck in the grooves of my shoes after each run. I usually just pulled them out and threw them back in the yard. One day it dawned me just how many rocks I was pulling out each time and how I could utilize them as a motivation advantage. What I decided to do was to save the rocks that I collected from my shoes after each run and keep them all in a jar. There was the immediate gratification of getting to drop them into the jar. It was a fun little ritual that I looked forward to each time. Also, over time, I was able to see the jar fill up. It gave me perspective of how each run was like putting a deposit into something I couldn’t see right away, but over time I would eventually start to.


I know. It sounds really simple… Like ridiculously simple, but there really was something so satisfying and rewarding about getting to add to my “running rocks” jar at the end of each run, as well as seeing how the jar filled up over time. That helped me stay at it. After a while, I began to enjoy running in and of itself, and that meant I stuck with it, and what do you know—I also started to see new PRs. The byproduct of consistency was not only learning to enjoy a new activity, but also improvement I was after.

Note: At this point in the year/because of the heat, I currently run indoors instead of out, so my rock additions have been put on hold.

Now, on to the reason I decided to finish this post up now…

A few weeks back, I came across a new account on Instagram that resonated with me right away. While watching Jill Colman’s InstaStory, I saw an account featured and took a look. It was @youmustfitness (Sasha Brainerd) —–> make sure you check her out here and here. Besides mindset, fitness, delicious looking healthy eats, and Buffy quotes, I happened to notice one of her stories on “gym rocks.” She had been collecting all the little rocks she found at her gym and saving them. As you can imagine, it peaked my interest because of my own little collection of rocks. Fast forward a bit, and I saw that she decided to do a giveaway featuring her nifty little rocks, having her followers guess how many she had collected.


I took a shot and guessed, and what do you know…I won!


I had a choice between two “rock” themed prizes—a kettlebell or Jumanji (the one featuring the Rock). I chose the kettlebell!

Isn’t she a beauty!?

So I guess now you know why I had to finish up this post. Besides the fact that I think this is useful information, I so enjoy the way the internet world allows us to make connections with like minded people all over the world!

| Kaci

Reader Questions:
1/ Do you use psychological strategies to assist with habit change?
2/ If so, what are your favorites?
3/ Enjoy running or nah?



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