Are you looking for ways to cultivate more motivation, engagement, or
life satisfaction? Celebrating the small victories consistently could be
the energy boost you need!
What Is a “Small Win?”
First, let’s establish what a “small win” is. Small wins are anything you accomplish that aligns with your intentions. They can be related to work, personal or professional relationships, habit changes, and basically every aspect of your life. Small wins can be easy to gloss over, especially if you’ve been raised on a diet of self-criticism and perfectionism.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that you intend to be less judgmental of others. A small victory might simply be noticing when you start to think something judgmental about how someone else says the word “milk.” Even though the thought still popped into your head when they pronounced it “melk,” you at least noticed yourself in the thought.
Paying attention to your thoughts opens the door for you to question why everyone must pronounce words the same way. Maybe you’re the one saying it wrong? This is awareness. And as they say, awareness is the key to successful life changes.
Why Small Wins?
Instead of celebrating small victories, why not just wait for the big victories to sweep you to happiness?
Imagine that the doorbell rings and you answer it. A spokesperson with way too much fake tan yells, “Congratulations! You have just won 3 million dollars!” Balloons and confetti fall around you. How would it feel to celebrate a big win like that? You’re doing a happy dance in your mind, aren’t you?
Surely, with that sum of money, you would not only feel motivated and engaged, but you’d also have everlasting happiness and fulfillment, right? According to research, people who win large sums of money are more satisfied with the quality of their lives overall. However, they don’t experience more day-to-day happiness than anyone else. So much for big wins.
In fact, the internet is already abuzz with articles that extol the virtues of celebrating the small stuff. But happiness is only one of the dozens of reasons you should celebrate routinely.
The reasons for celebrating small can be broken down into 4 main categories:
- Personal/Professional Growth
When energy is low, it can be challenging to accomplish anything. Try as you might to set goals, without energy, it’s understandable why the couch would have so much more magnetic pull than the treadmill. When you celebrate your small victories, you will give yourself little hits of energy that will add up over time.
Try it right now for yourself. Think of something small you achieved today. Maybe you took out the garbage even though it was really cold outside, you’re extremely tired, and you didn’t want to. Tell yourself, “I’m so proud of you for braving those terrible weather conditions to keep the house running smoothly.”
Or maybe you’re celebrating choosing tea over coffee in the afternoon. How does it feel to congratulate yourself? What does your body experience when you point out the little win to yourself?
Over time, you’ll notice that the little celebrations inject you with boosts of energy that will accumulate. Although you probably will still hate taking out the garbage, you’ll at least have the energy to do it.
Once you start experiencing more energy, you might notice feeling more motivated to accomplish all those items—large and small—on your “to do” list. This becomes a positive feedback loop. You accomplish something, celebrate, increase your energy to accomplish more, and repeat. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that celebrating the small victories leads you to accomplish even bigger ones.
The opposite is also true. When you don’t accomplish the little things, imagine how much more challenging it will be to chip away at the big ones. Now that we have looked at this from two angles, let’s celebrate your ability to shift your perspective on this topic so adeptly. Bravo!
2. Personal/Professional Growth
Acknowledging little wins helps you keep track of how far you’ve come. This is especially helpful when you’re trying to instill a new habit or make a lifestyle change.
Behavioral changes can be some of the biggest challenges we undertake. They can also be the most beneficial when you’re on the path to personal or professional growth and development. It can be easy to fall into the “all or nothing” trap.
For instance, a lot of people feel that if they can’t achieve a behavioral change—like quitting smoking—the first time they try, then they might as well give up.
Positive reinforcement through celebrating small wins helps you get back on track after taking a temporary detour. “I only had 3 cigarettes today” might be the small victory that would lead you to only having 2 tomorrow.
Growth in any area of life is a process. This process requires the use of tools. Celebrating the little things is an intentional tool you’ll want to use when you’re in the process of becoming the person you have been saying you want to be. And good for you for holding that vision for yourself!
They say that education is the most important investment you’ll ever make. Imagine if you are trying to get your degree but you self-criticize to the point of having major test anxiety. If you are not loving yourself, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at your education. You’ll never finish the degree!
Therefore, self-love is the ultimate investment you will ever make. You are the only person you will know for the entirety of your life. When you love yourself unconditionally, you will be able to navigate any life obstacle or storm. Celebrating your little victories is just one of so many ways to take care of yourself.
What do people do when they get married? They celebrate! What do you do on birthdays to show someone you’re happy they were born? You celebrate! Why do we celebrate? Because celebrations demonstrate our love for others. Therefore, when you actively celebrate small victories, you affirm the love you have for yourself.
Celebrating your small victories is a powerful way to demonstrate that you notice how amazing you are. It helps you rely more on your own positive feedback rather than looking to the outside world to tell you what it thinks of you. Here’s something that nobody ever said: “People-pleasing is the gateway to the Kingdom of Joy.” Stop waiting for other people to tell you how incredibly valuable you are and start acknowledging all your little successes!
As a side benefit, self-love has also been known to lead to better relationships with others. It turns out that when you love yourself, you will show others how you want to be treated.
“Isn’t this just bragging about myself?” you ask. No. It’s showing others that you notice the little things that are going well in your life, which means you’re also apt to notice the little things that are going well in the relationship or others’ lives. Seeing you celebrate your wins can be an invitation for others to celebrate their own wins, too. Pretty soon, you’re surrounded by people celebrating with you and you’re celebrating with others!
According to Jungian Psychologist, Dr. James Hollis, our quest for happiness is actually not the focus of our lives. Instead, it would be in our best interest to design our lives around finding meaning.
So, why is happiness mentioned in almost every single article about celebrating small wins, including this one? Because it’s what we want. As it turns out, the path to what we want is not a direct one.
According to Hollis, “Joy, and happiness, are not goals in themselves, but they are the by-product of those moments when we are doing what is really right for us.”
Happiness is a by-product! When we are fully engaged in our lives, our confidence runs higher, our actions match our intentions, our love for ourselves grows, and we experience a life filled with meaning. So, if you want to experience happiness, you must find ways to incorporate meaning into your life. Celebrating your little victories can be a catalyst for finding this meaning.
Put another way, if you’re not ready to let go of the pursuit of happiness, try viewing happiness as something you practice. And if you want a proven way to engage with that practice, try celebrating all of your small wins.
Now that you have some reasons to celebrate small, let’s celebrate that you made it to the end of this article. Good for you! By reading this, you invested in yourself. Congratulations.
Consider keeping a daily log of your little victories. At the end of the week, you can read everything you celebrated, which will help you experience the accumulation of all the little wins. And if you want to experience an even bigger win, re-read your celebration journal at the end of the year!