These days we are bombarded with rewards. There was a time when rewards were for children and stickers on a star chart but now rewards have crept into the adult world.

Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and Boot’s all reward me for shopping with them. If I buy an offer online, I am sometimes rewarded with a bonus. If I pay my car insurance in one lump I am rewarded with a discount.

But do rewards still work?

I was recently at an event where the speaker offered rewards to action-takers in his sales pitch. People got up and ran to the sales desk so clearly reward do have some power.

Ultimately a reward is getting something in exchange for you doing something. For example, someone near my house has lost a springer spaniel called Poppy. If I find their dog, I get the reward. It’s a simple exchange.

But Tesco’s and Sainsbury have a much smarter tac-tic, they get you to give first, then they reward you but to redeem your reward you must give more.

Therapy works more like the Sainsbury’s theory. The client has to make the first move and contact a coach or therapist. Then they are given techniques to help them help themselves which they can benefit from, but they must pay for these. Sometimes the payment is about the cold hard cash, sometimes it’s about what they need to invest emotionally, or let go of mentally.

But the reward doesn’t end there. The impact of the client starting be who they want to be or stopping doing whatever caused them a problem before knocks onto other areas of their lives in a useful, positive way. The rewards continue and so must the investment. The client must continue to invest their positive thinking and energy into their new skills or else the rewarding will stop.

Sometimes the rewards may not seem big enough, fast enough or vast enough and the client may stop investing. It’s important therefore to understand what rewards the client wants, when they want them and if they are realistically achievable. Writing this down can be likened to the terms and conditions that come with your shopping rewards.

Sometimes however, it’s useful to feel comfortable with not being rewarded straight away. To do things just because that is what you have to do. Sometimes people struggle with this because they are so used to getting rapid intense reward. Those who are overweight enjoy the benefits of rapid intense reward when they overfill themselves with food that was unhealthy and unneeded. To have to stop that behaviour and exercise might even imply a degree and period of pain to achieve.

The reward in changing this behaviour for the long term gain however is far greater than the short term gain of chocolate cake. It might mean living a few years longer and having a fitter freer life. Missing out on instant rewards can sometimes mean that the long term pay off is far greater.

It can also be useful to adjust to doing things without any rewards at all. Doing things just because. Usually these are the things that you end up with being rewarded for the most. A client recently told me he knows he is a nice man because he once helped a couple with a young baby whose car had broken down. He let them stay the night at his house and he never heard from them again. There was not reward – only the internal one of knowing that made him a jolly nice chap.