As we wrap-up another year, for some this is a time of reflection, other’s a time of planning. Whether it’s next year’s budget, collection planning or simply setting personal goals, we tend to focus on the big achievements and major events. Often getting lost in, or even overwhelmed by the day to day grind of moving towards an end goal. While having a vision or big goal is always awesome, it can get in the way of us enjoying the present moment. Experts like Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habits 1) or James Clear (Atomic Habits 2) usually recommend that when setting a big goal or trying to develop or eliminate a habit, creating small approximations is key. Even more importantly, celebrating each step completed in the direction of the desired end result.
What does celebrating the small wins look like? It can be rewarding yourself with a favorite activity, desired item or even indulging in a special treat. It can also be as simple as taking a moment to acknowledge verbally or in writing what was achieved. According to Psychology Today3, when we do this, our brain gets a hit of dopamine, furthering our motivation and enjoyment of the journey. String together several small wins and our achievement based drive can be satisfied.
For me when I struggle with cumulative stress aka burnout, this practice is extremally supportive. Often my feelings of burnout center around the feelings of task saturation combined with my perception of little or no forward movement. When I take a step back, look at my desired outcome, and then identify each small step I’ve completed so far; I feel re-energized and re-focused. I can then prioritize my to-do-list and gain clearer insight over my forward movement.
All achievements count! If you are trying to be healthier, celebrate the piece of fruit you ate today, or the extra steps you did when you forgot something and had to turn around mid flight. Perhaps you are working towards a healthier work environment, celebrate when you were able to listen to understand versus listening to respond or you respected either a personal boundary or someone else’s boundary. It’s small consistent changes that compound towards major, longer lasting change. This principle of aggregate marginal gains states “1% change each day will have a tremendous impact on success over time”.
So as we take time this month to reflect and celebrate the big moments, also take time to acknowledge and celebrate the small wins too!
Inspiring, Empowering and Challenging always,
- Duhigg, C. (2013). The power of habit. Random House Books.
- Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: tiny changes, remarkable results : an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. New York, New York, Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
- Selig, M. (2012). The Amazing Power of Small Wins: Achieving small goals floods your brain with refreshing dopamine spritzes. Psychology Today. online. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201207/the-amazing-power-small-wins