Do You Like the Carrot or the Stick? Find Your Best Motivator to Quit Smoking.
Companies have long been interested in keeping you healthy, happy, and productive – if only to improve efficiency and cut down on healthcare and insurance costs. Today some companies encourage people to quit by dangling “carrots,” or positive motivators in the form of extra vacation days or other perks that would entice them to quit. But more and more employers are using “sticks” (negative incentives) on tobacco users, for example, barring smokers from employment in states where it’s legal or making them pay penalties for smoking if they don’t participate in a quit-smoking program.
Why link penalties and wellness programs? Because it works for many people! Research shows when an employer offers a tobacco cessation program without having to pay penalties for smoking, only about 5% actually enroll in that program in any given year. However, if the employer imposes a significant financial penalty on smokers and also offers a cessation program as a way to avoid that penalty, then the rate of smokers signing up rises a whopping 40%.
CVS, the drugstore chain, further tested the ramifications of this result in a study with thousands of its employees. Smokers who were offered carrots (i.e., positive incentives to quit) were more successful in quitting than those who weren’t. But even more successful were smokers who had to pay a deposit that would not be returned if they relapsed. Essentially, in this case, the “sticks” won out. Penalties do work.
But the real question is: Will having to pay penalties for smoking work you? When it comes to your own quit, knowing your personal motivations is key. Do you thrive on positive reinforcement or does a penalty kick it in for you? In other words, do you prefer the carrot or the stick?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to find out:
- When it came to doing chores you didn’t want to do as a child, what motivated you more — the promise of an ice cream cone or the fear of being grounded?
- When faced with a big task or deadline as an adult, what motivates you more — the threat of failing or the joy of succeeding?
- List the top three positive motivators you’d choose to stop smoking: health, appearance, etc.
- List three things you would deny yourself as a punishment for relapsing.
- How much of a financial penalty would you be willing to pay to stop you from smoking?
- Would you rather impose the penalty on yourself or have someone else do it?
Once you decide if you prefer the carrot or the stick and which approach will work best for you, check with your company to see what types of cessation programs they offer. If you’re a stick and they’ve only got carrots, discuss with your HR how a different approach might help you. Or, work out a motivation program with your quit buddy or family member. Whether you choose to pay a monetary penalty to your kids each time you lapse or instead focus on the the positive health benefits you’ll get from quitting, pick the quit motivator that’s right for you. And who knows… A simple penalty just might bring you the best pay-off of your life. That is to say, a life free of smoke and full of good health!
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