I realised something the other day, as I reached for the Twirl I’d bought, to devour in the midst of my 3 o’clock slump. I bribe myself to get shit done. And I don’t think I’m alone.

What do I mean by this? Well first of all, take yourself back to when you were a child. What happened when you didn’t want to go somewhere or do something? Chances are, you got offered something to sweeten the deal. A magazine, a chocolate bar, a promised film on your return home, it didn’t matter much what the golden goose was, it was more about providing a distraction to make sure you didn’t scream your way around Sainsburys. It wasn’t a Supernanny-approved technique, but it got things done. A crutch if you like, that any parent wanting to protect their sanity had to employ.

But as I reach the peak of my quarter-life-crisis (and yes, this is a thing), I’ve realised that I now employ this technique too. I use bribes to get myself through the day, to finish tasks I don’t want to do, to go to social events I don’t want to be at and to make unbearable commutes bearable.

It starts with the little voice that whispers in your head, as you gear yourself up for the next task on your to-do list. Finish this and you can watch Gossip Girl. Or, as you start to think of another excuse not to go to the gym, go and you can have cake afterwards. My personal vice is beauty treats. Boots is my Aladdin’s Cave, the place I go to soothe bad days, Monday mornings and just about any other occasion that only a pearly new nail varnish or creamy blush can fix.

And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about a treat here and there. That’s why we work so hard after all, but it’s when these treats become an essential daily occurrence, that there starts to be a problem.

If I added up the calories that I consumed, based on those essential 2pm chocolate bars, or that extra full-fat latte, it would probably be enough for a whole weekend of treats. Except it isn’t just at the weekend, it’s almost everyday that my dwindling bank balance is filling my body with sugar and my make-up bag with things I don’t necessarily need.

And, trust me, as soon as you realise this you’ll begin to see it everywhere. Nearly everyone I know uses sweet treats to finish stressful assignments. New magazines make commutes more bearable. Wine pulls you through a Wednesday slump. A promised lay in makes a hard week okay and a butter-soft caramel pud makes a night at the gym dare I say it, fun.

But is it sustainable? Hint: bank balance says no.

Like an addiction, before you know it, you can’t even remember what a treat feels like because you’re using them to prop yourself up every day. Most importantly, our need for bribery  says more than we realise about our overall happiness. We may be a generation who’s never content, who always wants more, but it’s a sad day when our jobs, money worries and other daily stresses cause us to plug up the gaps with material things and emotional eating. If we were truly happy, in a job that stretched, but didn’t break us, with a lifestyle that helped us to be our happiest, healthiest selves, without worries that took their first attack on our mental health, would we really need all this crap? Somehow, I doubt it.

But maybe it’s not so bad. After all, studies tell us that it’s rewards which help the animalistic side of our brain to learn how to be more productive. It’s why quarterly bonuses, sales targets and pay scales all exist. But the difference between work-based rewards and choosing to reward ourselves on a daily basis, is that one takes long-term work and effort, the other, not so much. These little treats are all short term fixes, a quick bribe that gets one task ticked off but rarely leads to longterm achievement. And I can’t be the only one who’s wondered how many capsule items I could have bought if I’d given up my Monday morning Boots haul for a few weeks.

So, are you ready to revert and put down the bribes yet? I, for one, am determined to give it a go. Because if we’re so unhappy that we have to use possessions to just get ourselves through the day, it’s time to ask yourself: is it really worth it?


Do you use treats to bribe yourself into getting things done? If so, I’d love to hear from you – comment below and tell me what you think

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Beth Gladstone

Beth is a Writer and Digital Marketer who founded The Full Agenda as a place to talk about the things that kept her and her friends up at night. Currently working as a Marketing consultant to various SMEs she is a big fan of the startup market and loves technology, apps and anything social media related. When not obsessively checking Google Analytics, she can be found reading, writing or relaxing with a glass of Prosecco.

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