Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!

We know that celebrating successes is important. But I want revisit this theme, as it’s crucial to long-term success.

We naturally punish ourselves for bad behavior. We usually don’t have any problem feeling guilty about a poor performance. It doesn’t matter how small the screw-up was — we almost always feel bad about it. But when we accomplish a small goal, we seldom feel good about it.

There’s a paradox here: we are very fast to punish ourselves for a bad performance, but very slow to celebrate a good performance. This causes our motivation to dip, and it becomes harder to achieve long-term goals.

Importance of celebrating small wins

Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School performed studies on the events of everyday life, and how they influence people’s performance. After studying almost 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees, researchers found something very interesting.

The employees’ motivations enhanced by simply adding the exercise of tracking small achievements to their daily routine. Amabile explains that recording our progress helps us appreciate small wins, which in turn boost our self-confidence. We can then leverage that confidence to larger successes.

This is because accomplishments, no matter the size, activate the rewards area of our brain. When this door is opened, chemicals are released that give us a feeling of pride and achievement.

Specifically, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released, which energizes us. Aside from providing a feeling of joy, this chemical helps us take action toward what triggered its release in the first place.

It is the same chemical that gets people addicted to bad habits — gambling, alcohol and nicotine. What this study essentially did was create an addiction to success and progress through the simple routine of tracking small wins.

Utilizing the power of small wins

People usually feel a bit uncomfortable celebrating small wins. It feels odd to celebrate that we completed a yoga session, or that we studied for a full hour.

The thing to keep in mind is that the celebration is not focused on the achievement itself. The celebration is because you have successfully changed a habit. The celebration is for who you are becoming — and you are celebrating to reinforce good behavior and develop an “addiction” to progress.

Big, life-changing achievements come as a result of daily, smaller actions moving in the right direction.

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