Most people spend a lot of energy and time looking for that magical moment, that big breakthrough, when everything finally clicks. Playing the song perfectly, winning the big game or even acing the test can all be wonderful moments that are incredibly satisfying. However, a minor problem needs your attention.
Learning to work with small wins
Focusing on that magical moment or the big breakthrough can make you overreach, and at the same time create a steady stream of disappointments. Worse still, you stop paying attention to the smaller things, which really matter.
Chances are you may have experienced some burning excitement as you look forward to achieve a new goal. You might have even visualized yourself looking all shaped up, nice physique, no fat around your belly and such. You even created an action plan to get you started, settled on a diet and even started hitting the gym.
Just when you were starting to gain some momentum, your drive and motivation starts to wear off. You experience dwindling willpower, and you start giving yourself all manner of excuses, why it cannot be done. Before long, you completely give up on all your efforts. Your gym membership goes to waste and you start feeling disappointed with yourself. All the energy you had is gone.
You are not the only one going through this. You are just among millions of others out there, who start on a goal with very high expectations, expecting to wake up at the end of the week looking like a supermodel. The truth is, starting on a new goal has never been a problem. Everyone does that. The challenge comes to sticking out in your plan, especially during the middle phase that always seems to drag you down.
Appreciating the power of small wins
According to Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School, tracking small and incremental achievements everyday can enhance motivation. Amabile goes on to say that, recording and tracking our progress enable us to appreciate our small milestones. These wins go a long way in boosting our self-confidence. We can then use the competence we have acquired to achieve greater success in life.
This is because any accomplishment–regardless of the size–activates the brain’s reward circuitry. With the opening of this pathway, some important chemicals are released to our systems, giving us a feeling of pride and achievement.
Of particular importance is the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine that leaves us feeling energized and great. On top of enabling us to experience the great feeling of reward, it motivates us to move toward the reason behind that trigger.
This substance is the same one that gets people addicted to nicotine, alcohol and gambling. Once you get addicted to progress, nothing can stop you in your tracks. You will always be moving forward towards those smaller achievements, and at the end of the day, you will be moving an inch closer to the big breakthrough.
It is good to have big goals, however, you should use them for planning your progress. In order to achieve any significant progress, you must be ready to embrace the everyday grind that comes with pursuing your goals. If you fail to do that, it will immediately feel like a burden to you. It will feel as if it is something you just need to get out of your way. Something you are being forced to do.
If you don’t want to live with regrets, learn to continuously record your small achievements and wins. Once you get into a habit of doing this, you will not have to wait for the big day, or the big achievement, in order to feel that you have accomplished something.
For example, if you intend to lose 44 lbs, then you will surely be waiting for some time before you can reward yourself with such a major achievement. On the other hand, if your goal is to go to the gym three times per week, then you have higher chances of achieving your goal, and the much-needed shot of dopamine will be released into your system, to give you a boost.
Now that we are on the same page as to why small wins are so important, let’s looks at some specific ways to increase the frequency of small wins in our lives.
Finding your medium
Some people prefer the old methods of physical notebooks to note down their feelings. Others will go for the digital versions of apps and tablets. It does not matter. Choose what you are comfortable with and something you enjoy working with. If you opt for the traditional way, go for a journal.
Write down all what you have managed in a single day. It doesn’t matter the magnitude. Every small win matters. If at all you managed to do something constructive, instead of sleeping on the couch or watching movies, it still counts. Such small wins are going to motivate you to do even greater things.
Creating a memory trigger
Choose a time when you will be recording your small wins. It is advisable to be doing this at the same moment every day. If it is 3pm, let it be 3pm each day. You also need to attach a memory trigger, which will prevent you from forgetting.
If you prefer doing your recording before going home after work, then set an alarm for it. Spend some minutes reflecting and capturing your minor and major achievements for the day. If you prefer doing it before going to bed, then have a pen and a journal next to your bed. The most important thing is to identify a schedule that suits you best.
This is not a big commitment per se; you only need a few minutes, say 5 to 10 everyday that you will use for reflection. Repeat the pattern for thirty days, and then review the progress you have made within that time. Use it as a learning experience and adjust what seems to be dragging you behind.
The bottom line
The power of small wins is often underappreciated. Just get into a habit of recording your small wins. By the time you hit the third month, you will have already start noticing big changes. Stick to your plan of appreciating small wins, and you will not have to worry about failing to hit the big win.