Even in the hardest times, we must celebrate. However subtle or small, celebration is a critical buoy that keeps us afloat. As this ordeal of a year ends and we ponder our successes, our losses, and our admirable human ability to just keep going – let’s take a moment to explore what happens when we do and do not make time to commemorate the good.
Imagine for a moment that it’s a late fall day and the weather is just begging you to take a hike. It’s brisk, and the leaves on the ground are calling out to be crunched beneath your feet. You pack a turkey sandwich and a single apple that you know will taste remarkably better at the top of a mountain, lace up your shoes, and head out.
The trail is more challenging than you expected. After a determined climb and a few stumbles, you arrive at the beautiful view – but do not look. You spy the trailhead for another steeper, harder hike, and without so much as a moment-of-arrival thought or a nibble of your picnic, you head off to prove you can accomplish even more.
We all do this. When we hit a goal, we tend to run hastily past the win, determinedly pursuing the next task or trial. But what, I ask, is the point of working hard if, when you get there, you skip the moment to shout, “Hooray for me!”
What Stops Celebration
In our culture of insatiability, the frenetic pace and endless pressure convince us to skip celebration for the following reasons:
- It takes too much time and seems indulgent
- Our depleted self-esteem whispers we don’t deserve it
- Modeling of celebration is scarce
- We wonder how we can allow ourselves to feel such positive emotions amidst the ambiguity and pain swirling around.
Despite these thoughts, we need to recognize that the benefit of celebration is not minimal. The nutrients we get from celebration fuel us for the next task – especially when we are energy-depleted.
A Simple Way to Let Celebration In
If you do nothing else to increase your celebration quotient, simply start by making it a practice to pause after any victory. Stop all motion and tasks right after doing anything great – both the small accomplishments and big wins – and linger in the pride. Take a strategic pause. Open up your busy heart and let that tender feeling in.
Dos and Don’ts for Celebrating
1. Don’t aim too large
Victory is a grand word, but it is a victory to almost break your diet with the kid’s leftover mac and cheese and then stop. It is a victory to get a laugh from the boss because you thought quickly. It is a victory to be kind when you are exhausted. Celebrate incremental wins, and it will create a habit that primes you for larger celebrations.
2. Don’t up the ante
When someone notices our success, it should be a cue to pause and take it in. But it’s often easier to be Teflon – to let the nice comment slide off and up the ante on ourselves. If a colleague says your proposal was impressive, don’t say, “Thanks, but I wish I had another week on it.” Take the pause. Take the compliment.
3. Do 'reify' with language
Language makes experiences more real. In fact, there’s a fabulous unused word for this phenomenon, 'reify', which means to take an abstract thing and make it concrete. State your win out loud, say the words: “That went so great” or “I closed $20,000” or “I got the job.” These spoken truths are then heard by your own ears, strengthening the triumph.
4. Do ring the bell
My author friend Mike Robbins taught me this. When something friggin’ awesome happens in one of our businesses, we call each other and say, “I want to ring the bell.” Then we do the only thing that’s better than celebrating alone; we celebrate together, giving witness to each other’s victories. Try this, and you’ll get hooked.
Even during hard times like the crushing year of 2020, you can take a moment to recognize the ways you’ve demonstrated a bit of grace. Getting through impossible scenarios – babies on laps while working; loneliness beyond description; experiencing fear without falling apart – each of these “counts.” Good for you.
From Celebration to Gratitude
As you allow more of these moments of pride into your life, a secondary idea will creep into your thoughts. When you pause, you will often find yourself thinking, “This was not all because of me.” You’ll notice how often you ride a stream of lucky circumstances that sets you down lovingly at the foot of victory. This awareness is gratitude arriving.
Sitting on the top of the mountain, your thoughts will often start with being proud of your own effort (“I did it!”), but then will shift to gratitude for the working legs that got you there or the gas station guy who told you about the hidden trail.
The celebratory pause and the grateful pause are cousins. One warms us inside from pride and the other from an objective look at our blessings. Both fortify and motivate. You deserve them and are stronger with them, so take a pause and let celebration in.
Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com.