Power of Small Wins

No one wakes up one day and is magically successful. Success in life and business comes step by step.

Too often as we go about our daily lives, we get caught up in the minutia, our focus is often on the horizon, the big goals and we often overlook the small successes.

We all start at the beginning. When we learned to read, everyone had to learn the alphabet first. When you reached a personal goal, weight loss, a flawless musical performance, scored the winning goal, completed college, or received a promotion. Each of these moments was exciting and wonderful. You probably celebrated with family and friends.

We are eager to help children celebrate milestones like when a toddler learns to walk, we stop and cheer them on. As we develop and grow, we no longer take the time to celebrate the completion of each step.  New psychology research on the “Appreciative Advising Model” is helping institutions find positive ways for student retention and success rates, the same steps can be used in our daily and work lives. The premise of the Appreciative Advising model is to find ways and break down the barriers that prevent us from recognizing the steps and accomplishments we have achieved while working towards our goal(s).

In our places of work, it is everyone’s job to ensure that a person’s needs are met. We need to remove the old mindset that it is the supervisor or manager’s job to make the co-worker feel appreciated. Yes, a manager/leader needs to build up their team and ensure they provide the tools for others to succeed, but everyone can give appreciation to others.

Making progress at work and knowing that your tasks help move the business towards its goals motivates employees. We all need to feel like what we do in our jobs has meaning and value. Incremental progress in meaningful work can powerfully boost engagement and elevate mood. The power of small wins.

I have a friend who told me she has decided to return to school to finally earn her nursing degree. As she discussed her concern with balancing a young family and full-time school, I advised her to celebrate the small wins. I recall when I was in the same situation, balancing family life, serving as a volunteer president for a women’s organization, and earning a degree. Celebrating the success of completing one class before starting the next one helped me to stay motivated and moving forward.

It is easy to overlook the small successes. People are amazed at my dedication to workout daily, and although they think I have this great dedication, what they don’t know is what my starting point was. When you look at me you would never know that I battled with obesity all my life.  We often focus so much on the horizon, the goal, that we forget our starting point. As I reflect on the roads and crossroads and paths of life, I can see how the various opportunities and little success helped to shape me and direct me to the bigger breakthroughs.

Harvard Professor, Teresa Amabile found that tracking the small and incremental wins in our lives can do wonders for our motivation and boost our self-confidence.  Big or small, every achievement activates our brains, releases dopamine leaving us feeling energized, confident, and motivated.

  • Small Wins lead to big ones.

We can’t have big success without all the little success leading up to reaching that goal.  Each small win provides us with the motivation to keep moving forward. The small wins are more frequent than the big ones.

  • Small wins are reflected in you set your goals.

                Find ways to break the big goal down into celebrate-able milestones.

When I was attending grad school, I found that focusing on the final result was daunting, it was easier to break the goal down to the number of classes needed.

Define action steps that if followed will lead to achieving your big goal.

By redefining wins as incremental progress allows us to stick to the system and celebrate along the way. When we can see movement and progress forward it helps us stay motivated.

Celebrate each step individually, as a team, or if your manager be sure to celebrate each step with your team.

Appreciative Advising Model

Harness the power of Small wins by implementing some of the following:

  • Disarm
    • This is about getting the entire team on board with the goal. If there is resistance you need to relationship build and help the team see the ‘big picture’
  • Discover
    • Ask open-ended questions to utilize each person’s strengths.
  • Dream
    • Be open to new ideas and processes to achieve the goal.
    • Learn about your team members, what are their dreams, do you have the ability to help them?
  • Design
    • Make time for group meetings, providing opportunities for team members to share their progress.
    • Break the project down into manageable pieces.
  • Deliver
    • Encourage along the way.
    • Create a space – a physical or digital space where employees can visually mark their progress.
    • Celebrate the small successes
  • Don’t Settle
    • Setbacks are a part of the journey.

Each small win is a step toward the goal and ultimately to your success.

By Cheryl Viola, MBA, Executive Director