Savoring: The Power of Celebrating Small Wins Too!

My youngest son's graduation from college is just around the corner. I have been reflecting on the smaller victories that paved the way for this occasion. This reflection sparked the topic for this newsletter: celebrations shouldn't be reserved just for the "big win"!

In my years of coaching, I've consistently observed a pattern: clients tend to fixate on what they haven't achieved or what they perceive as mistakes. This focus on shortcomings, while understandable, can be detrimental to progress and general well-being. The good news is celebration is a learnable skill! By shifting our mindset and retraining our brains to celebrate even small victories, we unlock a powerful source of motivation and resilience. This shift in perspective is often one of the concepts my clients find most transformative in their coaching journeys.

Fred Bryant, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago has delved into the concept of "savoring," highlighting how taking a moment to acknowledge even small wins can significantly enhance our well-being and resilience[1]. His research suggests that actively acknowledging and appreciating positive experiences (no matter how big or small) can significantly enhance happiness in both the short and long term.

Celebrating successes fosters positive effects such as:

  • Enhanced Memory and Learning: When we celebrate, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and learning. By acknowledging progress (even small victories) we help our brains solidify the path to success, making it easier to learn and grow from experiences.

  • Building Confidence and Motivation: Celebrating achievements fosters a sense of self-belief. Studies show that acknowledging progress fuels our confidence, making us more likely to tackle future goals with enthusiasm. Recognizing your progress reinforces positive behaviors and can keep you on track, moving forward on your journey.

  • Boosting Well-being Through Connection: Celebrations that involve social interaction and shared experiences can elevate feelings of social support, a cornerstone of well-being. Sharing successes with loved ones strengthens our connections and creates a positive feedback loop, motivating us and those around us. Interesting research suggests that simply anticipating sharing the good news with others can boost happiness. This aligns with the idea of 'faking it till you make it' – even putting on a smile can lead to a more positive mood over time, especially if it leads to positive interactions with others.

  • The Power of Milestones, Big and Small: While graduations and award ceremonies are obvious times to celebrate, don't wait for grand occasions. Setting smaller goals along the way and celebrating achieving those subgoals can be a powerful motivator.

Here are some ways to incorporate celebration into your daily routine:

  1. Acknowledge Your Wins (Big & Small): Did you finally nail that presentation? Did you conquer your morning workout? Take a moment to recognize your effort and accomplishment, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

  2. Express Gratitude: Take time to appreciate the good things in your life, big or small. Gratitude journals are a great way to cultivate this habit of appreciating the journey.

  3. Treat Yourself: Celebrate milestones, however you define them, with a reward that brings you joy – a new book, a relaxing evening at home, a cup of tea, or a night out with friends.

  4. Celebrate the achievements of others! This is what I call “spotting reasons to celebrate!” Let them know you're celebrating with them.

  5. Create Traditions: Establish small rituals to celebrate milestones, like a special family dinner or a movie night with friends. These traditions create positive memories and reinforce the importance of celebrating the journey.

Remember, celebrating is about acknowledging your (or others') journey and progress, big or small. It's about savoring the moments, the effort, and the growth along the way. Recognizing your progress reinforces positive behaviors and keeps you on track, focused, and energized as you work towards bigger goals. So don't wait until you (or others around you) reach the big win or the finish line. Take a moment to acknowledge your wins and spread positivity by celebrating others' achievements! 

What or who will you celebrate today?

With gratitude,

Ana Isabel Sánchez  

[1] Fred Bryant & Jeanne C. John (2015).  Why You Should Celebrate Everything. Psychology Today.