Rewards – The Surprising Adhesive That Make Habits Stick

Adhesives have an amazing quality; they not only aid the adhesion process creating strong joints but also are helpful in numerous other purposes like as sealing agents to prevent leakages.  Adhesives have been in use for the past 200,000 years, their first use being for binding stone tools to their wooden handles.

Rewards play a similar role by creating sticky habits and maintain the momentum when we may feel low and dejected.  The first time we get out of the bed, put on our running shoes and venture out to feel the cool breeze on our face while running is a novel experience for us and we strongly wish to repeat it.

  • The promise of repetition however is, made by the conscious brain, which has limited capacity to control us; mostly it is restricted to while we are awake.


  • The major control still lies in the hands of the unconscious and it has the power to manipulate our behaviour in vulnerable situations like when we are half-asleep and still indecisive on whether to get up or snooze that alarm, or when we are in a moment of rage or great happiness or situations, which are highly emotional in nature.


  • In situation like these, it reverts to the previously established patterns of behaviour, which does not require a conscious effort to execute. We all know what these patterns are – they are our habits.  Our brain loves them, our unconscious controls them, and we just become a puppet in its hands even though we know it may not be the right thing to do.  However, our conscious judgement, suspended can do very little.  It roars back only after we have woken up, to realize how we have been manipulated to sleep while we wanted to exercise.

What do we do in such situations?  Not every action performed for the first time was a habit but its repetition led to the creation of one.  Similarly, if we want to replace our existing habits, we need to reward the new action with a similar incentive.

Promising ourselves something post completion of an activity, like a glass of milk shake or a piece of chocolate/sweet or anything else that is your indulgence, will tempt your brain to anticipate those rewards.

This anticipation will help us in strengthening the habit by performing the activity repeatedly. As we, perform it continually, it will soon develop into an unconscious behaviour capable of its performance even during vulnerable situations we discussed earlier without the use of that reward.

Critical aspect is to identify what we crave and use it in the most judicious way to create right patterns and behaviour for our self.  Identify what you crave and use it as a bait to change or replace your habits.

Make these rewards the adhesives to create effective sticky habits and behaviour.

person s holds brown gift box

Photo by Kim Stiver on

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