Celebrate! It’s a simple word that packs so much punch. But we rarely do it. The minute we finish one task, we check it off our list, and on to the next. High achievers, please note: This behaviour is not the healthiest.
Tracking and celebrating your small wins is a great way to gradually increase your sense of confidence. Your brain’s reward system will automatically help you do this — if you let it do its job. Even better, you can easily boost yourself and your brain to prepare for more successes. But more often than not we tend to interrupt the workings of our brain’s reward system, either ignoring the “feel-good” natural chemicals the brain releases or becoming addicted to them along with stress.
By celebrating your wins you are essentially rewarding yourself. And let’s face it. As adults we are not usually rewarded anymore (with the exception of a bonus or promotion or an occasional ice cream sammy).
So how do we go about doing this on a daily basis?
For starters, you’ll need to focus your energy. When energy is low, it can be challenging to accomplish anything. Try it right now: think of something small you achieved today. Maybe you made yourself breakfast this morning, even though you fell asleep late the night before — and you didn’t want to. Tell yourself, “I’m so proud of you for starting the day off with fuel to kickstart the rest of my day.”
Or, maybe you’re celebrating choosing walking to the store versus driving. 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’ll probably still not look forward to making yourself brekky in the morning, you’ll at least have the energy to do it.
Once you start experiencing more energy, you might notice feeling more motivated to accomplish other items 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.
This is especially helpful when you’re trying to instill a new habit or make a lifestyle change.
Behavioural changes can be some of the biggest challenges we undertake. 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 behavioural change—like quitting smoking—the first time they try, then they might as well give up.
Instead small victories enforce positive reinforcements that put you back on track. “I only had 3 cigarettes today” might be the small victory that would lead you to only having 2 tomorrow.
If you haven’t already, start now and carve out some time to regularly reflect on all the great things you’ve accomplished this year. 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 — get that dopamine hit! And if you want to experience an even bigger hit, re-read your celebration journal at the end of the year. That’s a whole lot of win-win-win!