The Power of Small Victories


As 2015 comes to a close (I’m writing this on New year’s eve), I am spending some time thinking about the year, and how I want to move forward into 2016.  I am not much of a resolution maker, since I know both from piles of research, as well as many failed personal resolutions for myself, that resolutions typically fail.  They have the power of intention behind them, like: “I’m going to lose 10 pounds! Stop (fill in the miscellaneous bad habit)! Be more kind! Swear less! Be a better parent!”  You name it, those are lovely ideas, especially swearing less, that I really do need to work on.  However, ideas and intentions don’t translate very well into action.  Thus most of us find that when we set up these resolutions we tend to fail quickly, which makes us feel bad, and often makes us dig in even deeper into the habit that we were trying to break.  Ever planned to be on a diet and found yourself spoon deep in a pint of ice cream?  Yeah, me too.

So let’s avoid digging deeper into bad habits, and do things a little bit differently this year.  If you want a plan for making and actually keeping a resolution, see my blog from last year.  I spell it out there.  In the meantime, though, let’s try something a little bit different.  What would it be like if you started celebrating what was working, what you did right, what went your way?  There are all these small victories out there just waiting to be noticed.

A few examples from my life in the last month:

  • I got bright red nail polish out of a brand new, light green sweater (really, this might be the accomplishment of 2015, you should have seen this mess!)
  • I spoke up when 2 girls were trying to cut in line in front of me.  I told them firmly but kindly that it wasn’t ok for them to get in front of me instead of letting them in and resenting it.
  • I trained diligently for a competition and got several personal records.  Note that I didn’t win, not by a long shot, but I am excited about and giving myself credit for MY improvements.

Notice none of the above examples are major.  I’m not waiting until I’m famous, or cure a disease, or singlehandedly assist in improving world peace to celebrate.  We’re talking about laundry here, or unfairness in an outrageously long bagel line (totally worth it BTW, ever had a real bagel in New York City?!), or the results of athletic training.  Maybe you can celebrate the time you didn’t yell at your kids when they were running late, again, in the morning.  Maybe you can celebrate making a simple dinner at home instead of grabbing takeout.  Maybe your celebration is telling a co-worker good job even when no one has recognized the good job you did.

I’m not sure what you can celebrate but I would guess there is something you can find today.  Once you are in the habit of recognizing and giving yourself credit for what went well, what you did right, what bad thing didn’t happen, this builds on itself.  You are then inclining your mind towards what you want instead of focusing time and energy on what you don’t want.  If you are the competitive type, you can even get into a little mini competition with yourself about tracking the good stuff.  Remember, incline your mind towards what you do want, and you will be able to notice and create more and more of it!  Here’s to a victorious new year.

Best wishes,

Dr. C