Celebrate the Small Wins

By Krista Large – June 10, 2021

“I know what to do; I am just not doing it.”

Have you ever heard yourself say this? I know I have.

This past winter, I went on a snowboarding trip with some friends. I had been snowboarding once before — but that was 11 years ago. When I decided to book the trip, I figured that I’d be able to pick it back up rather quickly and have a great time. The trip, however, turned out to be a complete disaster.

The week leading up to it, I felt drained. It was so bad, I had even thought I had COVID but I ultimately tested negative. Even with the negative test, I missed my 5:45 a.m. flight out to Denver and had to travel solo rather than with my friends. I missed the entire first day of snowboarding, but I was still excited to go out the next day. 

On my first day out on the mountain, I got the hang of it just as I thought I would and really did start to enjoy the rush. It was everything I thought it would be — that is until I got cocky and started picking up speed. I soon found myself falling back and landing directly on my head. I was in immense pain and would only later find out that I had given myself whiplash.

To make matters worse, as I sat there on the mountain crying and in shock, an advanced snowboarder began to berate and bully me. It took me forever to make it the rest of the way down the slope. I was shaking, puffy-eyed and had never been more grateful to see flat land in my life.

The following day we were unable to snowboard because of a snowstorm that rolled in. I was so relieved because, at that point, I couldn’t lift my head without using my hands. I wanted nothing more than to go home, but since our car was not four-wheel drive, we were stuck for an additional two days in Colorado.

When we were finally on our way home, the group was already discussing plans to go snowboarding again. I sat there silently with crossed arms and thought to myself, “NO way am I ever going snowboarding again.”

I still feel so negatively toward snowboarding. Why? Because I associate the sport with pain, humiliation, frustration and failure. I don’t want to always feel this way, but for now, I want nothing more than to give up on snowboarding altogether.

I imagine how I feel about snowboarding is the same way some people feel about changing their lifestyles to achieve the body and health they desire. If someone is unsuccessful when trying to lose body fat, they may get frustrated, experience humiliation, and think to themselves, why even bother? 

The truth is, we change when we feel successful, not when we suck at something.

If the snowboarding trip had gone well, I would have likely already gone back this year. I would associate the sport with fun and adventure and would have probably invested in some gear. 

When we associate positivity with an experience, we want to keep doing it! 

This positivity works the same way with habits. The problem is, we rarely take the time to recognize our success and acknowledge what we have done. The good news is, we can hack this by inserting a celebration into the mix.

By celebrating small wins, we can wire in any habit. After each time you complete your habit (no matter how small), you can take a split second to celebrate your success. The feeling of success will change the chemicals in your brain to help you continue the habits.

Habits can include:

  • drinking more water
  • saying no to chips at a Mexican restaurant 
  • completing a set of push-ups
  • sticking to your portions
  • reading one page of a book
  • being nice to someone
  • any behavior

Take action:

Step One – Identify a habit that you have been unsuccessful or inconsistent with.

Step Two – develop a way of celebrating that will help you feel successful. 

Celebration ideas:

  • smile 
  • take a deep breath
  • dance
  • imagine yourself making a winning shot
  • imagine a huge check hitting your bank account
  • whatever gets you excited

Step Three – Practice this every single time immediately after you complete your habit.

Beware, if you don’t celebrate, you are putting yourself at risk for feeling like a failure, and your new habit is far less likely to stick. Pro tip – Stop being so hard on yourself and make the changes in your life a fun journey.

The reason you aren’t doing the things you want to do isn’t that you lack motivation; it’s all in the design. Anything is possible with the proper setup.


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