4 ways to celebrate wins and stick to your goals

If there is something I’m terrible at, it’s celebrating my little wins.
Actually, I am pretty terrible at acknowledging my bigger wins too.

Usually here’s what my progress looks like:

life goals progress
Basically, I ignore achievements.
The same focus that helps me get over hurdles and obstacles, also makes me overlook my accomplishments.

Big deal? Yes.

Long-term goals sometimes seem so far away it can be demotivating. By brushing off my small wins I am missing out on a lot of goodness like:

Strengthening motivation.

Long term goals are tough: you have to put in the work daily, but get used to seeing results once in a while.
Small wins help you move from where you are to where you want to be: celebrating each step is important to reduce frustration, increase happiness, and get motivated.

Making adjustments along the way.

By stopping and looking at your progress, you can review what’s working and get a feeling of the final destination. Are you moving in the right direction? How can you do more of what works?

Enjoying the journey.

Instead of delaying gratification until an uncertain goalpost (that will likely move once you’ve passed it), you are enjoying all the small moments along the way.

Don’t worry. If you don’t celebrate your wins, you’re not alone. Whenever I mention this, eyes roll up to the ceiling and people say “I never do it!” or “yeah…I need to do that”.

Here are the 4 tools I use to recognise and toast to the small happy accomplishments along the way.

The jar of awesome

I first heard of the Jar of Awesome in an episode of the Tim Ferriss’ podcast. This is basically a mason jar that you can fill with your special or proud moments: you make the rules.
This will serve two purposes: make you stop for a moment, appreciate the present and write it down on a piece of paper; but also it will create a bunch of happy memories you can pick from whenever you feel down or demotivated.
Here’s my Jar, it’s been filling up pretty fast in the past 4 months!

celebrate wins with the jar of awesome

In the words of a friend of mine “it’s like if someone throws you a jar full of happy moments”. If you want to decorate your jar, you can check out more inspiration here.

Keep a daily gratitude journal

To make sure you enjoy the journey as you work towards your goals, keep a gratitude journal.

One way to do it is the post-it note system: every evening before bed, write 3 amazing things that happened during the day on a sticky note. Once you’ve recorded it on paper, you can either stick it on your wall for later, or just throw it away. But it’s important to write it down: this activates different parts of your brain, and helps you elaborate and remember the positive things that happened in the past few hours.
You can also include this in your journalling habit, or use a dedicated tool. I like to use the 5 Minute Journal, and I wrote a detailed review about my experience with the app and the paper journal.

Review your week with someone else

One of the best thing I did in 2015 was to find an accountability partner: for the past many months, we have been sending each other weekly and monthly reviews on our progress towards our bigger goals. It’s been amazingly effective and made the process more fun.
And whenever I overlook a small win, a get a text like this:

accountability goals

Bribe yourself

Find a ritual to celebrate your goals: I like to acknowledge big milestones with a glass of plum wine. Recently, I also started to associate a specific reward to each goal. If you need some inspiration, here’s a list from Zen Habits.

Rewarding yourself is very important, as you are associating a positive stimulus to achieving your goals. This will prime your brain to stick to future goals more easily. You are basically treating yourself like the Pavlovian dog.

pavlov goals

Matt, Pavlovian-dogged.

Of course, none of this will work if you hate your goals.
But if you’re obsessed with making progress, you will be able to enjoy the journey more, and actually do better work.

Since my post on hacking monthly goals, many of my readers have shared their goals with me. It’s been fantastic to see what everyone is working on, and it will help me create better content to help you in the future.
Later this year, I will create a free series on goal setting and will share more basic tips via email. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, feel free to keep sharing and getting in touch.

You’re up: when was the last time you celebrated a success and what did you do? Send me an email and let me know.

— Matt

goal setting handbook