Celebrating Wins Fuel Future Successes

“The most beautiful things are not associated with money; they are memories and moments. If you don’t celebrate those, they can pass you by.”

– Supermodel Alek Wek

One summer, when my girls were four, six and eight, they experienced Dr. Shufelt’s Kid’s Triathlon, which was designed to “encourage kids to be active and healthy while introducing them to the joy of triathlon.” The highlight of the day was seeing my girls receiving their medals and standing on the podium with a great sense of accomplishment.

I will never forget the proud grins on their faces; the way they carried themselves with such satisfaction after the awards ceremony. They felt like rock stars and couldn’t wait to show their medals to their dad and the loved ones around them. Afterwards, they hung their medals where they could see them every day. Looking at their prizes and remembering the awards ceremony gave them a boost of confidence and the desire to get back out there and try again.

That’s the power of celebration. It can also go the other way, which we learned in the next set of races.

A couple years later, we repeated the experience. My two youngest daughters crossed the finish line standing and smiling. The pride I felt as they each crossed that finish line was immense. My eldest daughter Enrica, 10, did not share my pride. She felt completely defeated, saying, “But I came in last!” Although she had not trained and was not the last to cross the line, she had seen many people passing her and every aspect of her body language spoke defeat.

The word “but” minimized Enrica’s achievement, affecting not only her attitude but ours as well. It put a big damper on our celebration.

“But” I’ve done better in the past. “But” so-and-so beat me. “But” I could have also done X, Y, Z. What an unfortunate, negative, judgmental word “but” is. It is a thief that robs us of so many good feelings.

Rather than saying “but,” what if we practiced saying “yes, and” instead?

Imagine if Enrica had crossed the finish line saying, “Yes, I entered the race, and I finished it! I can’t wait to do it again next year!” What a difference! All of us would have felt our spirits rise as we envisioned her running and finishing next year’s race. It’s just a great example of the power of our language to either drain us or energize us.

When your child brings home a math worksheet to which the teacher has affixed a shiny gold star, this is another modest reward for a tiny, yet noteworthy achievement. Even a humble reward like a gold star or a “thumbs up” poster can be a great motivator.

Each success and celebration builds on the next one and that momentum really matters.

It is critical to find ways to lift your spirits and keep focused on the present moment. Celebrating even small wins strengthens our wellbeing and our progress forward.  One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to give yourself a virtual “medal” every now and then by acknowledging and celebrating your successes, no matter how small.

Remember, when you focus your attention on something, it expands. If you want more success in your life, celebrate your success!

You may have to trick yourself into party mode. We too often move right to the next great thing without taking the time to celebrate the great thing we have just done. In doing so we lose sight of the fact that we are great! We’re conditioned to acknowledge the major milestones like earning the impressive diploma, winning the big promotion at work, or getting engaged to the dream partner. Note that the road to self-fulfillment isn’t paved with big milestones; it’s paved with little points of light. It’s less about the big wins and more about the day-to-day victories that move us forward. Unfortunately, no brass band is going to show up just because you spoke your affirmations every day last week. There will be no community fireworks on the night you summon the courage to use your voice at the family table. The New York Times won’t send a reporter to write a feature story about your decision to follow your passion for basket weaving.

Here are some ways to celebrate:

  • Treat yourself to something special: a nice bottle of wine, lunch or dinner at your favorite restaurant, a new outfit, a flower bouquet, a trip to a day spa, a day out to watch your favorite sport team. The “something special” doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It only has to signal “celebration” and help you acknowledge your small step forward.
  • Take a walk, all by yourself, with the sole purpose of reflecting on your progress. Whether it’s a hike through the woods or a walk along the beach or a simple stroll around your neighborhood, be mindful of your feet taking literal steps forward. In your mind, link those steps with the other kinds of steps you are taking in your personal growth. Breathe in the fresh air deeply. Feel the sunlight (or the moonlight) caressing your skin. Hear the wind rustling through the trees; the waves crashing on the shore. Stop for a moment and allow yourself to feel gratitude for how far you’ve come, and for the gift of being alive.
  • Spend an hour making a collage or other art piece that expresses your feeling about your latest small win. Hang it where you can see it every day.
  • Expressing your appreciation for others is a form of celebration, so create a handwritten thank you note to someone who has helped you in your journey.

You get the idea. There are countless ways to acknowledge your efforts. Even the smallest reward can be enough to help you stay on track and reinvigorate you.

Don’t forget to involve your loved ones in your celebrations as well, especially your children. Let them see you striving to reach for your highest self. Let them see your gratitude for life—including your gratitude for setbacks and challenges, for they represent rich opportunities for learning and growth, too.

By inviting your children into these moments of acknowledgement and commemoration, you’ll be teaching them how to cultivate a grateful and celebratory spirit. What a lovely gift you’ll be giving them. Just the thought of it makes me want to go out and celebrate!

It can take some practice to get into this mindset, particularly if you are a shy person or if your family didn’t celebrate achievements. Let’s begin by looking at the reason behind that outlook, then we can find an approach that works for you. Book a call so we can get started!

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