Most of us grew up learning that if we celebrate small wins means we are arrogant, egotistical, and selfish. We were taught that to boast about our achievements is to brag, show off, and so we learned to downplay our accomplishments. But why should we deprive ourselves of the joy and motivation that celebrating small wins can bring?
The reasons why we don’t celebrate small wins
We’re always comparing ourselves to others. Nowadays, it’s so easy to see people doing amazing things on social media. We scroll through our feeds and see their seemingly perfect lives and accomplishments, and it makes us feel like we’re not good enough.
This way of thinking makes us downplay our own wins, even if they’re actually important. But let me tell you something: your win matters. It matters to you and your journey.
Instead of getting caught up in comparing yourself to others, turn your attention inward and celebrate your own special achievements.
The culture of “not good enough”
Do you remember a time as a child when you celebrated something you achieved, only to have someone, whether it was a family member, a teacher, or a friend, belittle your win? Perhaps they dismissed it as insignificant or highlighted someone else’s achievements to overshadow yours.
These experiences can leave a lasting impact, and we internalize the message that only the big stuff is worth celebrating. But let me repeat this: every step forward, no matter how small, is worth acknowledging and celebrating.
Embrace the idea that your wins, regardless of their size, contribute to your growth and deserve recognition.
Why are we always looking for more?
Human Nature of Seeking
Whatever we are striving for, we need to actively want something more in order to live well.
Neuroscience shows that the act of seeking itself, rather than the goals we realize, is key to satisfaction.
Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp argues that of the seven core instincts in the human brain (anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and seeking), seeking is the most important.
That means it is not the goal, but the seeking itself that fulfills us and gives our life meaning.
Miswanting / Affective Forecasting
Psychologists Dan Gilbert and Tim Wilson study affective forecasting, which explores our ability to predict our future emotions.
The better we think something will make us feel, the more we want it. They have found that we often make mistakes when it comes to estimating how much we will like something in the future. We tend to overestimate the positive impact that achieving a specific goal will have on our happiness. As a result, we become fixated on the end result, neglecting the smaller milestones along the way.
When we celebrate small wins, we break free from the illusion that future accomplishments alone will bring us lasting satisfaction.
We learn to appreciate the present moment and the progress we’ve already made.
The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectation, and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.
When we constantly chase the next big thing without celebrating our small wins, we fall into the trap of constantly seeking more without finding lasting fulfillment.
When we celebrate small wins, we pause the hedonic treadmill and cultivate a sense of gratitude and contentment in the present moment.
Celebrating small wins doesn’t mean boasting or seeking validation from others.
It’s about acknowledging your progress, no matter how small, and giving yourself the recognition and appreciation you deserve.
Celebrations can take many forms and can be as simple as treating yourself to something you enjoy, sharing your accomplishment with a supportive friend or loved one, or taking a moment to reflect and express gratitude for the steps you’ve taken.
When you celebrate small wins, you create a positive feedback loop that fuels motivation and inspires continued progress.
This is also an act of self-compassion. It’s about recognizing that progress is not always linear, and every step forward, no matter how small, is worthy of acknowledgment.
In conclusion, it’s time to shift our perspective and start practicing celebrating small wins. This way, we will finally free ourselves from the comparison trap and the illusion that only big outcomes are worth celebrating.
So, go ahead and celebrate your wins, big and small, and let them propel you toward even greater accomplishments!
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