This past September I had my 20th high school reunion. I have to admit, I loved highschool and enjoyed my time there, but I haven’t been back to any alumni weekends or events. I went to a boarding school, where alumni and the association are very important, but despite this I went on my merry way after graduation in 1998. Alumni Weekend 2018 was a great event, and re-connecting with people that I grew up with was really fantastic. There is a closeness that you feel with people when you lived, ate, learned, grew up, & competed side by side for years.
Another event from this weekend though, which I struggle to talk about, was my induction into the school’s Athletic Lives of Distinction family. Every year they choose past grads that have had an impact in the sporting world through their own athletic or coaching endeavors. I was shocked to hear of my nomination, and was humbled by the Olympians, World Champions, and highly regarded coaches standing alongside me during the ceremony. As a list of my achievements were read aloud I realized two things; One: that I had forgotten about the majority of them.
Two: my alma mater had a creepy amount of reach and depth for obtaining knowledge. Exhibit A - In 2004 I received the “Play of The Year” award during my tenure playing semi-pro rugby in Ireland, where I successfully kicked a 40 yard field goal, from the sideline, in a torrential downpour, without a kicking tee (I used a small pylon instead). When they read that out I realized that I was never alone, and probably had a microchip embedded somewhere in my body.
Back to realization number One: I forgot about the majority of my achievements. It showed me that I never took time to enjoy my victories, whether they be small or large. Whenever I attained a long-term goal, I always said “Well, that’s done. I guess it’s not that difficult then, let’s do more stuff”. Now, yes, it is always good to be constantly striving and growing, but at the same time we need to celebrate our victories and this is something that I have only learned recently through inspiration from my feelings after my award. When I don’t understand something, I read. And here are some things that I have learned that will maybe help you as a business owner AND human.
As a former worker in critical care, research-based information has always been my most reliable guide so I went this route first. Research has shown that achieving even the smallest goal, such as making your bed in the morning, can release dopamine into your system…and dopamine is your brains “happy chemical”. Dopamine has been linked to motivation, so by achieving small little goals throughout the day can provide you with a motivational freight train that will help you in reaching more and more goals! Imagine the release of dopamine that can be released when you reach your larger goals!? #recognize #doitforthedopamine
In terms of non-scientific perks from celebrating small victories, I can think of a few now that I have done a post-mortem on my lack of goal recognition. Firstly, I think that the ability to look back on the process is very important after achievements, especially large ones because it can provide you with extremely useful information. We always talk about looking back on failure and learning from it, but why can’t we do that from a victory as well? It can show you what worked great, and where you could improve even further! When we don’t even take time to acknowledge that a small victory has occurred, we certainly won’t then make the time to analyze and understand why it went so well.
Secondly, acknowledging victories can simply increase our confidence! As you hit milestones you can rest easy knowing that you are following the correct course of action. There is a 500-mile, marked course across the Sahara Desert in an area called Tanezrouft. Every 3 miles there is a 55 gallon oil drum to people from getting lost during the crossing of this deceptive terrain. At anytime you can only see the one behind you and the one that you are aiming for. By acknowledging every oil drum, by celebrating each one of these small victories, you psychologically gain momentum knowing that where you came from and where you are going are congruent with your long-term goal. As you build up these smaller accomplishments, the larger goal doesn’t seem so unattainable. If you don’t look at the barrels as anything special, and don’t look at each marker as an achievement, you can get bogged down by the whole ordeal and your results may suffer.
Thirdly, to continue with the theme of confidence, wouldn’t it be great to know that anytime you faced adversity or difficulty in any future goals you could always say to yourself “Well, dummy, we crossed the Sahara, so this dinner with my in-laws should go fine”. The recognition and celebration of your victories can show you that you CAN achieve things, and that you CAN overcome fear, because you HAVE ALREADY DONE SO. A few years ago, I was on an operating table and I had a cardiac event during a procedure. I know that there is nothing that I can go through now that I can’t overcome, because that is the most afraid that I have ever been in my life, and I can refer back to that in future times of struggle.
The long and the short of it? Acknowledge your achievements, recognize when you have done something remarkable and/or positive. Your brain chemicals will thank you, and so will your soul. This translates over to business as well, give your staff compliments when they’ve done well, or grab them coffee if they are working their fingers to the bone. It will put a little pep in their step, and you will ALL benefit from this.
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