LISTEN: Use the Reinforcement Principle, Part 1 (Get Things Done! #45 with Daniel Whyte III)

The simple purpose of this podcast is to help you get things done every day so that you can accomplish something worthwhile with your life.


Daniel Whyte III
Daniel Whyte III

Psalm 90:17 says: “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

Our quote for today is from Samuel Butler. He said: “If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do.”

Today, in the Get Things Done podcast we are looking at Part 1 of Step 8: “Use the Reinforcement Principle”.

Q: You have emphasized the power of self-discipline. But how do you make sure that when you discipline yourself to do something it isn’t just a one-time thing? In other words, how do you build single actions into habit patterns, so that procrastination is less likely in the future?

You do it by using the principle of reinforcement.

Behavioral scientists have demonstrated that whenever a behavior occurs, the likelihood of it occurring again is strongly influenced by whatever happens immediately afterward. If the subsequent event is pleasant, the brain links the two occurrences together. Even if the person is unaware of the linkage, the behavior is more likely to be repeated. The process is seen throughout the animal kingdom: it is built-in mechanism that makes possible what psychologists call associative learning.

So if you want a particular action to be repeated, follow it immediately with a suitable reinforcer, some kind of reward that will have a positive effect. The reinforcer may be provided by someone else—as, for example, in the case of a football coach who gives a player a pat on the back after he has made an exceptional effort—or you can provide it for yourself, as when you give yourself some kind of reward for performing an unpleasant task you were tempted to postpone.

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