Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TUESDAY TIP: Celebrate the Small Victories

It hit me a few minutes after midnight.

Halloween was over, and I had eaten NO candy all day. 


I'm pretty sure that was a first for me--at least since I've been old enough to eat candy.

No, I didn't find a cure for cancer. I didn't run a marathon or climb a mountain. I didn't even lose a pound.

Nonetheless, it was a small victory.

Small victories mark the path to bigger ones. No one loses 50 pounds in a day or becomes a bestselling author or concert pianist overnight. If you got a new job today, it's not because you had one good day, it's because you did a lot of things on a lot of days to make that achievement possible. Some of those things may have been little, but eventually they added up to a new job.

There is a subversive psychological phenomenon I've noticed when I start to celebrate a small victory--even privately. Almost as soon as it dawns on me that something good has happened, I feel the urge to downplay it. Have you had that experience? I think it's pretty common.

Maybe it comes from not wanting to show off or appear arrogant, but too often when you acknowledge an accomplishment--something positive you've done--a critical voice will pop up and attempt to invalidate that simple affirmation.

In my case, I had just realized that I made it through Halloween with no candy when I found myself thinking, "But I should have walked today, and I didn't."

It didn't stop there, either. Within 30 seconds I had a whole mental list of things I should have done, putting me back in my place and reminding me what an insignificant little drop in the bucket my "achievement" was.

Here's my theory: I suspect that critical voice prevails in so many of our internal conversations mainly because it gets so much more practice than our positive, celebratory voice. It's always easier to tear down something than it is to build, so exercise your positivity muscles by encouraging personal growth--however incremental--and celebrating every victory you can - small, medium, large, or microscopic.

Look for things to celebrate, creating them, if necessary:
  • I just did two leg lifts before getting the milk out of the fridge.
  • I looked both ways before I crossed the street.
  • I didn't let that rude person push my buttons.
  • I did 2 minutes of stretches at my desk after that stressful meeting.
  • I noticed that I was satisfied while there was still food left on my plate, so I stopped eating.
  • I did some slow calm deep breathing before I went back to my phone calls this afternoon.
  • When I caught myself trying to eat my way out of a shame spiral, I stopped and put the cookies away.
  • I drank 8 glasses of water today.
  • I picked up some healthy snacks at the store this afternoon.
  • I logged my food intake this morning.
Challenge yourself to come up with at least 3 each day. If your critical voice responds with discouragement or dismissiveness, counter with more encouragement.

Before long, you'll have even bigger victories to celebrate.

How about you?  Is there a tip you could share with the rest of us, today? It doesn't have to be exciting or original, just something that has helped you and might help others. Please leave your tips in the comments below. And be sure to celebrate the fact that you shared it as one of your small victories today!


  1. What a great blog post Lenora! It definitely resonates with me! I have that little voice that tries to minimize the little victories as well. Your observations & resulting points of view are so important to grasp, I suspect for most of us. Thank you as I needed to be more mindful of this area of encouraging and celebrating the small victories. BTW I think it is a huge victory not to have eaten in candy yesterday! I almost shocked that I didn't either! I didn't even realize it until I read your post! At one point during the day I thought that I wanted to eat just a couple little candy treats after all it as a candy related holiday! BUT I didn't do it. So I guess that is something to celebrate. :)

    My Tuesday Tip: Never give up! Don't quit! If you have a bad day or even a catastrophic event that takes place that can kind of knock you out of your new healthier routine, don't let it keep you down. Get back up, shake yourself off and keep moving forward. As you know I was involved in a bad accident recently and it felt like all the walking and work I had done was suddenly gone. I could barely walk again and hurt terribly in my neck, back & knees. And then it hit me... these were all areas I was/am dealing with from the accident and I will heal and as long as I keep moving forward I will not only get back to where I was but begin to move forward again. I hd already dealt with back & knee issues so it all became murky in my mind as to my perceived diminishment in my journey. It may sound simple but changing my mindset & visually "getting back up" and recommitting to my health goals irregardless of what had happened was & is crucial for me. It involved having to regroup and reaccess some things but it was and is doable. The pursuit of better fitness and health are worth not quitting on myself! Not quitting... sounds so simple but in reality quitting is the culprit that keeps most from their (our) goals... if we let it! I AM NOT GOING TO QUIT! :) My tip: Don't Quit!

  2. Thanks so much, Brenda, for your encouragement and for taking the time to leave a tip. With the accident and everything related to it that you've had to overcome recently, I know you speak from experience! That shift in mindset you described really is key, isn't it?

    It strikes me that not giving up and celebrating even small victories go hand-in-hand (or can). When things are really bad, it often feels like the situation is hopeless because we are so overwhelmed that we can't see beyond it. Taking small steps and focusing on even the tiniest of victories (walking with a little less pain, getting a little more sleep, figuring out a different way to do something...) can refocus us from what seems impossible (big picture) to what we can recognize as possible (baby steps) and help us to keep going.