Has there ever been a time when you’ve truly done something just because it was the right thing to do? Or even just purely for the sake of doing it?

It’s almost impossible to think in such a way as a human. We don’t do anything just to do it.

  • We clean for a reason:
    • To make our guests feel more comfortable so that they don’t have to sit on a pile of old records and magazines while they swat away fruit flies;
    • Because we like the look of a clean room;
    • Because our roommates made us…
  • We help people for a reason.
    • It looks great on that empty section of our resumes under Volunteer Activities
    • We can tell our friends about it and make them feel bad that they aren’t helping someone else.

You could take any situation and figure out that there was some underlying incentive for performing a conscious action.

The problem is that many of us tend to only do things to receive extrinsic rewards. Our incentives are reserved to cookies, trophies, or admiration of our peers.

But when these extrinsic incentives lose their appeal, we begin to see no purpose in doing certain things: “if there is no reward for helping this person, why should I bother?”

This has to be one of the biggest fundamental faults of our society (and if you’re truly cynical: what may lead to our ultimate collapse). Extrinsic rewards cannot be enough to keep us afloat.

We need to reserve incentives to intrinsic rewards: feeling good after helping someone, knowing that we did the right thing without someone else validating us.

Ever the optimist, I hope that this can become a reality. That we can do a good job because it feels good to work hard and not because we will get a good letter of recommendation. That we will volunteer because others need help, not so that we can tell our friends about how tired we are from being so selfless.

If you are religious, good deeds for the sake of good deeds are an integral part of your religion, so do them for that reason. If you’re not religious, good deeds should be done to show religious people that goodness doesn’t need to be guided by religion.

Whatever your core beliefs are: STOP doing good things so that you can be recognized and rewarded. Instagram has enough posts about how important your volunteer work is. Do good things because good things are good…was that too many goods?

One thought on “Incentives

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