Me: “How did it go with your xyz goal this past week?”
Client: “Oh I’m so excited – I DID it! It’s complete and I’m so relieved!!”
Me: “EXCELLENT! Now – how are you going to celebrate?”
Client: “Huh? I was supposed to do it – why should I celebrate?!”
How often do you react in the same way?
Do you brush your achievements and wins under the carpet and soldier on with the next task? Or – do you do something to celebrate your win, and let your nervous system and body know that you appreciate the hard work you’ve put in?
Most of us do the former. It’s how we were taught. “You got an A in the test? Great! Now, if you studied a tiny bit harder, you could maybe get an A+!”
And maybe in your house, the “Great!” was even left out…” ☹
And back we go to the ‘grindstone’, working a tad harder, for ‘better’ results, so that we can get a bit more outside validation and affirmation.
Stop this bus!
We need to celebrate what went well! Not for anyone else’s sake but our own. When we’ve worked long and hard on a goal or project, that’s taken many hours of our life, it’s absolutely necessary to pause the rest of life and celebrate our efforts, as well as the results.
The fact that we were willing to put skin in the game (the hours of our lives, maybe some discomfort, loads of courage, discipline, determination), needs acknowledgment and validation. Else – it’s really hard for those parts of us to come back to the party and do it all over again.
If our only reward is “outside” of us (in the form of praise, affirmation, love, or acknowledgment from other people), we’re going to wear thin very quickly. Because that praise doesn’t always come. And waiting for it can be pretty hurtful and exhausting and have us feel unappreciated.
It needs to come from inside – and from a genuine place of appreciation and validating ourselves and the effort we put in. It’s wonderful when others celebrate with us. And I do believe the most important part is to celebrate our own efforts.
Imagine climbing a mountain range.
It’s hard work, you get tired. Your legs are burning from the uphill climb, you’re out of breath, and you’re almost ready to give up. Your mouth is dry and you need some fluid.
Then you see a little horizontal space and you decide to rest there. What a relief to pause and take a break!
You take a few sips of water. Delicious, and refreshing. You sit down and take out some healthy snacks. You find that you can angle your body so you can look at where you came from while you’re replenishing your energy.
“Gosh!” go your thoughts… “Did I really come this far? Look at all the ground I covered!! Wow, this is wonderful Look at that view! I didn’t realise I came so far…. a little while ago I was still down theeeeeeere, way below. I’m so glad I turned around and looked at this view!”
Suddenly, you have energy again. Your legs feel strong once more. You’re feeling uplifted, encouraged and amazed at what you did so far.
You look further ahead, to the next peak. Boy, that’s far…. It looks like it might be a tough climb. You look back at where you came from, one more time – and realise that if you could do the previous climb, you can more than likely do the next too.
That break and looking back at where you came from, and refreshing yourself for the next leg of the journey, is exactly what I’m talking about for a “Celebration”.
We’re taught to soldier on in the Western world. To achieve the next thing, climb the next peak, write the next book, create the next product, have the next goal in mind – without looking back at where we came from, and celebrating our wins (no matter how small they seem to someone else).
Celebration doesn’t have to be big or expensive
Down-to-earth examples are:
✨ Slowly sipping a simple cup of tea, while focusing on all the sensations you experience: the hot cup in your hands, what you can see with your eyes, the breeze on your skin, the temperature
✨ Read for 30 mins in the middle of the day and let everything else wait
✨ A walk in nature
✨ Buy a CD or an online song you love, that helps you to feel uplifted
✨ Have a coffee or other beverage in your favourite coffee shop
✨ An afternoon in a free museum or art gallery
✨ Quiet time – journaling
✨ Half an hour of day dreaming with a scented candle next to you
The point is to be fully focused on the fact that you’re doing this small act to celebrate something you did well/completed even though it might’ve been hard.
This activates the reward centres in your brain. It lets them know that growth and getting out your comfort zone can be pleasant – there’s a reward at the end – it doesn’t have to be all scary or unpleasant.
This small thing can also help us to get into action with something “big” that we’re procrastinating on. Climbing a mountain (difficult or big project) needs many pauses, rests and celebrations. If we know those pleasant pauses are coming, it’s much easier to step into action.
Small Action Step for you:
What task that you’ve completed already have you not yet celebrated?
Make a plan today to celebrate it, specifically focusing on acknowledging what it took, how far you’ve come and saying “thank you” to yourself for getting into action.
What task (or big project) are you procrastinating on?
Decide today how you’re going to celebrate that when you’ve completed it. Make it something really yummie and definitely something that you’re not already doing for yourself. So it can stand out and feel like something wonderful, just for you, that you can look forward to.
Don’t choose a reward that your spouse, children, parents, or someone else enjoys. Make it something for you. Something you love doing, love receiving, love buying. A bit of pleasure just for you.
If you’re not used to celebrating your achievements, I know it can be strange (and possibly hard) to start. It may feel “wrong’ on some level. It’s not normal yet.
Start small with something that’s not going to take a lot of time or money. The cup of tea by yourself, savouring every sip. 10 mins of daydreaming. A walk by yourself. Enjoying the feeling of soft green grass under your feet.
It gets easier, and more enjoyable as you build a new habit of encouraging yourself, building your inner resources to be able to tackle those big projects and difficult things in life.