Celebrating wins is effective—here are 3 reasons why

Posted on Jun 15, 2021

“What wins are you celebrating?”

When I ask a new client this, they’re usually hesitant to answer. The reason tends to be something like this: “Celebrate? Why would I do that? I haven’t reached my goal yet.”

Here’s the thing. When I encourage you to acknowledge your wins, I’m not just being your cheerleader, and I’m not wasting your time. I know from gradually creating (and recreating) my ideal work life that celebrating wins is a legitimately effective step in the goal achievement process.

Celebrating wins is a legitimately effective step in the goal achievement process.

What I mean when I say “win”

A “win” in this context is almost surely more broad than what you have in mind. 

To use a sports metaphor (how atypical of me), I’m not just talking about winning the game or even making a goal. I’m talking about showing up, putting on your gear, giving your teammate a high five, and so much more.

You can think of a win as anything you’re doing well. Or, if that feels like too much of a stretch, it includes anything you’re doing better than you have in the past. More simply: any progress made toward what you desire. 

Win = any progress made toward what you desire

Note that learning is a form of progress. For example, let’s say your goal is to workout every day. At the end of the week, you haven’t worked out even once. You notice this and ask yourself why you didn’t work out, whether you still have this goal and, if so, what might help you make a different choice in the future. Now you can celebrate the fact that you reflected at the end of the week. You can celebrate the curiosity you brought to the situation and the insights you gained. You can celebrate the self-compassion you’re giving yourself. 

Often, this is what real progress looks like!  

What I mean by “celebrate”

The most important part of celebrating wins is to simply acknowledge them.

I recommend establishing something consistent, as it can be REALLY easy to skip this step of goal setting and planning.

Here’s an example of what this looks like for me currently:

Then, treat yourself, which is a great way to maximize the benefits of reason #1. In The Joy Diet, Martha Beck defines treats as anything that makes you spontaneously smile.

Treat yourself to something that makes you spontaneously smile.

Whether you treat yourself for every teeny tiny win or not, I encourage you to treat yourself at least daily! Bare minimum!

But why take the time to acknowledge these small achievements?

Here are the 3 top reasons why celebrating wins is effective.

Reason 1: It increases your energy

Reason 1 is physical. It feels good and boosts your energy, which is important during change. 

For example, have you ever felt behind on your long to-do list at the end of the workday? If you take a moment to notice what you did accomplish—all of the unplanned work that needed your attention, the people you chose to help—you’ll physically feel lighter. 

Try it and see!

Reason 2: It leads to more realistic goals

Reason 2 is mental. Celebrating your wins helps you set more realistic goals. 

Reflecting on how much you achieved over the past 3 months helps you guess at how much you might reasonably expect to achieve in the coming 3 months, for instance.

Reason 3: It shows you what matters

Reason 3 is emotional. As you reflect on your wins, notice how each felt to accomplish. In other words, which wins were the most rewarding? This helps you focus on what matters most as you move forward. 

For example, when I looked over my list of wins from the past month, I noticed my whole heart region warm up and tingle when I read the bullet point, “wrote about my relationship with my brother.” That’s a clear signal to keep moving forward on my creative non-fiction writing project, even though it’s not urgent or income-generating. 

How will you incorporate celebrating wins into your routines? What’s your easy next step?