One of the cruelest things about Christmas Day is we have built up months of excitement which is rewarded with a brief instant. Even the best explosion of presents often leaves people disappointed, not because they didn’t get what they wanted, but because the reward isn’t equal to the effort or the expectation. While “having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting” resting all of your hopes and desires on one thing can be a set up for failure, ask any athlete.

Add to this that people psych themselves out of doing things with an all or nothing attitude. They will only see things as successful if the entire project is complete, fully functional, and Cadillac in quality. Anything less is a failure. If at any point along the way, even at the very beginning it looks like these criteria might not be met, usually in an unrealistic time frame, then they give up. Sometimes they don’t even start because the criteria make the entire process overwhelming.

To remedy all of these things, it’s handy to avoid completion rewards or expectations. There are some built-in to whatever we’re doing. Having the thing we want, accomplishing what we set out to achieve are rewards which gratify and demonstrate effort and success. However, holding all that out as a carrot to motivate us is usually self-defeating. Instead, we should break things down into meaningful units, like the various measurement scales on a measuring cup or beaker. Small efforts add up to large accomplishments so we should appreciate and reward each small step along the way. Like an advent calendar we should make each bit of progress an event, a pleasure, and celebrate it accordingly. That way, when we get to our end goal we can appreciate the goal itself and all we have become in order to achieve it rather than feeling oddly hollow and unfulfilled.