Incentives can be used at any point of one’s life to positively influence behavior. In infancy we incentivize our babies and toddlers to learn and grow. Potty-training is often incentivized by rewards such as candy or prizes or fun activities that reward certain actions. Some children are similarly incentivized to get good grades and behave. As we get older, the incentives change. Throughout school many incentives are driven by progress and opportunity. Doing well in school means you get good grades. Students are incentivized to get good grades because good grades mean that they have a better chance of getting into a good school. This kind of incentive is based on achievement.
There are other types of incentives that you will face at this point of your life as well. If you have done well in high school, different colleges might offer scholarships that incentivize you to choose one school over another. Additionally, there might be other benefits and incentives associated with one school. If you like sports, you might be inclined to pick a school with a successful football team. Or maybe the incentive of your school is location. For some people, moving away to a big city is an incentive to choose a school within that city’s limits. These incentives are more opportunistic in nature.
Finally, there is a third kind of incentive. The third type is an incentive that improves your quality of life in a meaningful or enjoyable way. These are incentives that you don’t need, but you want. For instance, if you are looking for a job and one of the perks is that the office keeps the fridge stocked with free food, that is not necessarily going to be the deciding factor in whether or not you want to work there, but it is definitely a nice perk. These kinds of incentives are reward-based.
Throughout your life, you will encounter all three types of incentives. It is important to learn how to handle each and how to prioritize incentives. Looking at the example above, the job might offer free food as an incentive, but if another job doesn’t have free food but is a great resume- builder and learning experience, the opportunistic incentive should be prioritized. There are other instances in which it is appropriate to take a reward-based incentive. At the end of the day, as long as you are using incentives for the right reasons, you will successfully better your situation without compromising your integrity or other opportunities.