Short and long term reward

What makes you tick? What gets you going every day, and keeps you going through the day? It’s a question that we ask all the time in passing, but do you ever really think about the answer? I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few months (years) and have had to really get to into some areas that I never really wanted to explore.
Let’s go back a bit. 8 + years ago, my wife started a health ed, graphic design, multimedia company. No problem. As the fates would have it, at the same time, we were overjoyed to find out she was pregnant. We had been trying, but after hearing of all the trouble people (who are stable and want a child) have these days, we planned for a long frustrating ordeal. Nope. We got our wish on the quick side. After all the excitement (let me know if you want links to the whole story) we decided the best thing was for me to stay home while Aim built up her new business.
I could type for days about those days, but the point for this post is this: up to that point, all my focus and goals were selfish. By me, for me. Aim and I had our mortgage on our great house and all that, but my daily goals were personal and definable. I will do A, B, and C, by time D, and that is the scope of my accomplishment. Most of that effort was applied to work goals. Meeting deadlines, amazing creative, more deadlines, and the occasional weekend project.
When LilF arrived, all that changed. Drastically. I left work entirely, and became a full time dad. Everything that I had based my entire self worth on was gone. No job. No deadlines. No achievement. Just service. Endless service to a baby (did you know that babies don’t really express gratitude?) and to our family (did you know that founders don’t have a lot of extra free time away from work?). It was…um…difficult. Not only for me but for Aim as well. We both went through a lot. But we got through it, and are stronger and closer for it.
After 2 years at home, I went back to work, fortunately for Aim’s company and worked there for 8 great years. Happy happy, joy joy, working for my wife, loving the work we do, and living the dream we always hoped to achieve. As all hopes and dreams will do, it had to come to an end, and after some heart wrenching decisions, I took a new job at a new company. It has been another massive transition, with a boatload of personal and family turmoil to make it interesting.
To get to the point, and to save lurid details for other posts, here’s what it has taken me almost 9 years to figure out: I (and possibly we, but you need to ask yourself) need small rewards in shorter timeframes to feel worthwhile, useful, and needed.
When I started at home with LilF, my goal was to raise a child. Getting through a day was sometimes a nightmare, but my goal was to raise a stable, happy child. It will be a while before we get definitive results on that.
When I started working in health education, my goal was to save people from disease. Getting a project launched that might achieve that goal to my expectations eventually became a white whale breaching on the horizon.
When I started my new job, I dreamed that it would resolve all the past frustration and disappointment and bring me back to that time when all was simple and clear. Yes, I am a moron.
What I have learned is I need to achieve goals, make progress, earn rewards. It could be earning a beer after doing chores around the house, or a concert next weekend, but those small goals and rewards make a difference. They make me tick. I need to hit a target, and get a prize. It can be small, unimportant, and silly, but I need it.
Knowing this about myself is making a drastic difference in how I approach each day, each weekend, each task. I set small goals wherever I can. I achieve them, and I reward myself. It makes the long journey bearable. Parents, think about this. Reward yourselves when you can. It makes you a happier, better parent.
I ask you again, what makes you tick? What keeps you ticking?