Celebrate Your Small Wins
I had a client that I used to see years ago who sends me a yearly Christmas card. I do the same for her. However, this year was a bit different. The holiday season is busy for everyone and I’m no exception. Seeing clients in two consecutive compressed weeks is always a challenge. I put her card in my usual place for things that need my attention later. Eventually, I had a grocery store trip that allowed me to get her a card. After the holidays, I finally had time to write a personal message. I went back to that place I thought I had put her card. However, I couldn’t find it. Over a 5-day ordeal of checking and rechecking folders, cabinets, and desks at home and in the office, I finally remembered where I put it. It’s funny that I wasn’t even looking for it when I had that aha moment, but I was relieved to finally find it. I needed the card because her return address was on the envelope. During these five days, getting desperate, I thought one of her cards from a previous year might be in one of the boxes in a storage area at my office. The first box I unpacked came up empty. No card, but I did find a few things I could use elsewhere.
You may think I have some organizational challenges at this point and you’re right. From my search, I had the opportunity to separate things I wanted to look at later and other things that were of no value to me anymore. I set up three piles that took me all of 10 minutes to go through. One pile was for stuff I wanted to email to clients, one was a pile for things I wanted to look at again when not trying to solve my immediate problem, and the other was the biggest of all – stuff to toss in the recycling bin. As I said, this wasn’t some daunting task that took hours. The pile for the recycling and shredding container wasn’t more than a good handful. Even though I wasn’t planning to do any of this, I took a moment to take a step back and let myself feel good about going through one of several boxes I had wanted to go through for several years.
Over the course of doing my own work to evolve, I began to systematically let my inner voice say positive things when I did well, no matter how small. When life’s to-do pile is high and wide, we can only do one thing at a time. Sure, I only went through one box for an alternative reason, but I did it no matter the circumstance. In the past, my inner voice would have said, “You’re so messy. When are you going to get to these boxes and bags of stuff?” No more. I just cleared a space to pause and say, “Good job.”
So many people I see in my professional life have the same mountains of tasks or to-do lists and are oblivious to the efforts they made until I reflect it back to them. I had a client who was getting his house ready for the birth of his baby in the next month. He listed several things he had already done but was fixated on the tasks ahead. I had him stop for a moment and told him to let himself feel good about the amount of stuff he already did over the weekend. Doing this instantly shifted him. He felt proud and less stressed at that moment. We get so caught up in what is yet to be done, looking forward, we don’t recognize the efforts we have already achieved.
Please give yourself credit for what you’ve done from your to-do list, no matter how it was done or under what conditions. If we recognize, through thought, the things we accomplished, we’ll feel better about ourselves, and when we feel better, we’re much more likely to do more. If we start doing more, the floodgates will open for all of your awesomeness to be unleashed. It all starts with small steps, whether going through a box to look for a thank you card, going for a walk, or venturing out to a bookstore. Pat yourself on the back more and beat yourself up less, even if those achievements are small and perhaps unrecognized by others or extensive and acknowledged by the masses.