Monday, August 27, 2012

Celebrate the small things

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” - Tom Peters

Several years ago I received a nice piece of feedback from a very good friend of mine. He said that I knew how to "treat myself well". At first I thought 'what on earth does that mean??'. Was he just joking around and making fun of something I said or did? But no, he actually meant it. He quickly followed up with an explanation. He said that I was someone who would celebrate the small things in life. I started thinking about that and realized I did have that habit.

At some point in my youth I noticed how most people I knew saved their celebrations only for major milestones like graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. which are most certainly celebration-worthy. But they would skip over many smaller yet really important events. I'm the kind of person that will reward himself for simple things like giving a really good presentation, getting through an annual physical or sometimes just getting through the work week. All those are celebration-worthy in my book.

I'm a big believer in "success breeds more success". By taking the time to recognize small achievements or milestones you start to build a powerful feedback loop of happiness and confidence. A lot of my work with protégés involves shifting our conversations from the "problems" they bring up to focusing on the small successes enveloped within.

For example, I had a mentee describe to me in excruciating detail how a presentation she gave went horribly awry. After discussing several areas of improvement I shifted her focus to what she learned in the process of preparing the presentation. She not only became a minor expert in the fairly complex topic presented but she also networked with several people along the way! Could things have gone better for her? Sure. But did she achieve some successes? Most definitely! And those are worth dwelling on too.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”  - Maya Angelou
I believe how you perceive the small things in your life adds up to a general sense of well-being or discontent.  By transitioning your internal conversations from focusing only on problems to focusing on achievements as well you've started to re-program your brain. It is like an invisible force arcing you to happiness or despair. We all have challenges and we all have achievements. Converting that focus will make all the difference!

And how does one celebrate the small things beyond just recognizing them and feeling good? Here are some suggestions: One can have an ice cream cone, or a glass of wine, or allow oneself to plop down and watch some TV or anything along those lines. Someone might think "but I do those things anyway". That's great! Keep doing those things but link them to events you want to celebrate. By infusing everyday activities with meaning and celebration you'll bring an additional, fulfilling layer to your life. If you want to go fancier then go for that too! Whatever you decide treat yourself well.

Another related aspect of "celebrating the small things" is a something I've brought up several times on this blog and that is gratitude. By being grateful and focusing on the good you already have rather than what you lack you have a powerful companion to the spirit of this post. Gratitude itself is its own celebration.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” - Oprah Winfrey.

What do you do to recognize and celebrate the small things in your life?