I have been studying for my MSc in Psychology for the past two years while also working, raising two children under four years old, and trying to have a personal life. Last Wednesday I clicked submit on my final project for the last module in the program and breathed a sigh of relief!
In the next second, I started to think about the upcoming dissertation project that would be the next and final piece to completing my degree. How should I narrow my topic? What were the deadlines? How would I manage my time to ensure I completed everything?
Then I thought, why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we enjoy our little successes instead of continuously driving onto the next step, the next project, the next achievement?
Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is very important to have big and challenging goals that push us out of our comfort zones and give us an opportunity to really see what we are capable of achieving. However, I also know that if you are anything like me, this can sometimes result in missing opportunities to stop and really appreciate where we are today. I believe that celebrating the small wins is every bit as important as the big ones.
What would happen if we stopped to really appreciate the milestone or goal we had reached and shared with others our success? Potentially, we would have the power to motivate ourselves as well as those around us. In positive psychology, research has shown that focusing on our strengths and success creates more opportunities, energy and motivation. So instead of diving straight into planning the work ahead for my next project, I closed my computer and reflected on all the work I had done to get to where I am today. What had I learned, what could I take forward and more importantly what had I done that made me feel proud of myself.
Here are a few tips I have found to keep motivated, stay in the moment and celebrate the little wins:
Set Big Goals AND Small Goals
I think that having big challenging goals is important but so is setting small achievements for yourself. Build in milestones so that you can celebrate your success along the way. Working on getting your dream job? Don’t wait until you’re in the job to start appreciating all your hard work instead start with small goals: Creating a CV your proud of; Learn a new skill; Become certified or accredited in something; or Schedule an interview at your target company. Even setting goals that don’t seem directly connected to your big goals may still have a big impact. For example, are you looking for work but passionate about baking and always wanted to take a class? Sign up and take it, you never know where some of the smaller goals may lead you or where your inspiration may come from.
Reflect on What you’ve Accomplished
When you’ve achieved something stop and look back at how far you’ve come! Appreciate the work you have put in and the changes you have made to your life, yourself or your career. While it is okay to also reflect on what you would do differently and what you have learned don’t forget to focus on what went well. Also, reflecting on our achievements can highlight what we are good at, passionate about or love doing. It can provide insight and direction to ensure that our goals are authentic and have value to us.
See Yourself through Other’s Eyes
I was speaking to my coach the other day and she commented to me that I had being “doing” so
many things in the past month and it didn’t sound like I had stopped to appreciate everything I had accomplished. Hearing her perspective on what I had achieved helped shift my view to recognize all the smaller wins I had rushed through without appreciating the value of them. Share your journey and success with those you care about and who genuinely want you to be happy. Also, asking for feedback can be a great way to see yourself clearly and recognize the value of your achievements.
Follow your own Advice
I think in many cases we are often harder on ourselves, more critical or downplay our achievements compared to others. If one of your friends or family were in your shoes you might congratulate them or tell them what a great job they had done. You might even tell them to cut themselves some slack or take a break and bask in the moment. All this great advice also needs to be self-directed. Give yourself permission to go out for a nice dinner and celebrate your first interview or participating in a networking event despite being really nervous; indulge in your favourite activity because you spent the week searching and applying for jobs; or even just allow yourself to receive praise for a job well done.
Consider if there is ever a Completed
I know for myself, I always have a next step or project or skill to learn so I’m not convinced that there ever will be a stage in my life where I’m going to stop and say I feel finished, I’ve achieved or experienced everything I could ever want and am now done. Considering this, every step is part of an ongoing journey and if we don’t stop and appreciate the scenery along the way we will miss so much of what life is all about. Finding out what you love and value and spending more time on that is an achievement in itself!
I think part of appreciating what we have achieved is also recognizing that we each have something to be grateful for in our lives. While I keep hustling through my studies, I do sometimes stop to appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to learn, the quality of education available to me, that I have a computer, internet and all the tools I need to study remotely and balance it with my family. I believe that if we look at our situations as opportunities there is always something there to be grateful for and that part of recognizing our success is appreciating what we have.
What do you think? Do you have tips that you use to celebrate the small wins?