If you want to improve your performance at something, or if you want to create new good habits, one very successful technique is the use of positive reinforcement. The following story will illustrate how one of my coworkers used positive reinforcement to create new successful behavior.

When I was in my early twenties a long time ago, I worked in an office with three other people my age. The room was very tiny, and we were young and energetic, so we probably spent as much time making jokes as we spent working.

In those long ago days, nobody had a computer in their office. We used to write with primitive instruments called pens, and we wrote on flat sheets of ground up wood pulp we called paper.

Because we couldn't erase our mistakes easily the way people can today on a computer, we often wasted many sheets of paper, because every time we made a mistake we had to start all over again. We ended up throwing all those crumpled up pieces of papers in the waste paper basket.

Now in this tiny office room with four workers, we had only one waste paper basket, and it was ten feet away from me.

When it came to throwing my crumpled papers into a basket from ten feet away, I was pretty terrible at it, because I’m pretty uncoordinated, and I'm lousy at all sports. My crumbled pieces of paper often ended up five feet away from the basket.

One day, one of my co-workers who was named Vicky, told me that every time I managed to get a piece of crumpled paper successfully into the waste basket she would reward me with a gold star.

And she did! Throughout the rest of that summer, every time I managed to throw a crumpled piece of paper successfully into the basket, Vicky made a big point of saying "Good for you, you did it!" and she would give me a gold star.

By the end of the summer, my aim had improved so much that I was able to hit the basket nearly every single time. And to this day, my ability to successfully throw things into a waste basket from far away has stayed with me. And every time I manage to throw something successfully into a waste paper basket, I always say, "Thank you Vicky Radley!"

What Vicky did for me was something she may have learned because she was studying how to be a teacher. Or perhaps she just used her common sense. But by giving me a gold star immediately after I completed a behavior she wanted to reinforce, and by giving me lots of immediate praise, she was able to produce a skill and behavior in me that previously I did not have.

This technique of rewarding behavior we would like to continue is called positive reinforcement. We can use the technique of positive reinforcement to change our own behaviors, and also that of the people around us. In some cases, this technique can work as quickly and successfully as my own experience in becoming better at throwing crumpled papers into a basket.

Positive reinforcement can work on lots of other behaviors too. I'm not sure if it was the gold stars I got from Vicky, or her praise, or perhaps it was the combination of both that were successful in training me to become better at the desired activity.

When you want to use positive reinforcement to strengthen a behavior, it's very important that the positive reinforcement happen right away, so that your brain has a chance to associate the reward with the desired behavior.

After all, if Vicky had decided to wait until the end of the summer to give me gold stars, I don't think it would have had the desired effect. There would have been far too long a time between the desired behavior and the reward.

So, if there is some behavior you would like to reinforce in yourself, you can try several methods to see what works for you.

For example, immediately after you do something you approve of, give yourself praise. Or give yourself a gold star. Or give yourself imaginary points.

Or, instead of getting praise from yourself, you can arrange to have someone who is important to you to give you immediate praise and reinforcement.

You can also use the technique of positive reinforcement to change the behavior of the people, and even the pets, around you. Positive reinforcement can work great on kids, pets and spouses!

The important thing to know about using positive reinforcement is that it has to be immediate and consistent, and the reward has to be meaningful, in order to work.

Why not try it and see!

Author's Bio: 

This article is by Royane Real, author of many self help articles and a free newsletter. Discover many articles that can improve your life at my new website at http://www.royane.com