Today, I wanted to share a story with you.
Like most of you, I am preparing for New Year’s Eve. Bars aren’t my scene; I like to keep it low key. Usually a night with close friends and family filled with good conversation, a fire, and the hope that I will stay up until midnight.
Typically, I don’t set New Year’s goals because I break them as quickly as I set them. But earlier in the month I went to Miami. I found myself with a pen and paper overlooking the ocean with an almond milk latte setting goals for the year. I have to say it was a pleasurable experience. The breeze off the ocean was perfect, inspiring me to open up and locate my deeper hopes and capture them on paper. I felt so happy when I was done that I wondered why I don’t set long-term goals every year.
Then, reality came crashing down and I remember the answer. I set a goal to meditate three days ago and yesterday I already failed. I skipped my daily mediation. Worse, I started hating on myself for failing so quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in setting goals. I do it all the time.
But here’s what I found: goals are only meaningful when they are authentic goals and you celebrate every day. I have to confess; I don’t want to meditate every day. I am not failing because I am lazy or lack discipline, I failed because I don’t care.
So this year I double checked my goals to make sure they are authentic to me and as always I plan to celebrate each step of the way. I look forward to lifting a glass of wine tonight to celebrate the new year, but I equally look forward to celebrating the next day in whatever achievement I accomplish.
Now, onto the story I wanted to share with you to help make 2017 a year to celebrate.
I was on a coaching call with a client last week and I literally said to her, “I feel like anybody would benefit from this conversation we’re having.” After we hung up, I couldn’t let go of that conversation. So I’m going to do my best to recount exactly what went down between the two of us because I believe anyone could get value from this client’s conversation point.
It went something like this…
She called me for her appointment. She told me, “I worked on a project for the last two and a half years and I got to the end of the project last week. However, the celebration that I was hoping for, that feeling that I was after, that sense of accomplishment, that jump for joy – crack open champagne sense – didn’t happen.”
Now, full disclosure: she and I have talked about this many times.
We talked about the importance of celebrating the small win, and by that I mean every time you check something off your list, you take a moment to appreciate and enjoy the fact that you’ve finished yet another thing. The goal is to move from celebrating on occasion(yearly) to daily, even several times a day. Every accomplishment in and of itself becomes an exciting moment; life itself becomes an endless celebration. And I don’t mean champagne popping excitement, but rather a genuinely positive moment to pause and appreciate what you’ve done today. This way you are not waiting to celebrate until the end of a three or four-year project or when you have a child, when there’s a wedding, or some major event in your life.
Every day is an opportunity to celebrate.
But when I suggest this to my clients, especially my extremely successful “A” personality clients, they don’t trust the idea – in fact, I believe they secretly have distain for it without telling me.
“Why celebrate?” They tell me, “It’s not worth it. It’s just a small task. I mean, it’s nothing to even talk about.” Or, “I will jinx it.” Or my personal favorite, ” I will get lazy if I am too happy.” So this client didn’t celebrate daily much like the rest of my clients.
Although, most of them come around eventually and this was her turning point.
She noticed the lack of celebration at the end of this project and she thought, “what is happening? I don’t feel happy enough about this achievement.”
Then, she started to unravel. She began to feel disempowered.
First, she looked to others to validate her accomplishment. Haven’t you done that? You don’t feel that sense of deep accomplishment, so reach out to friends and family and say, “Hey, let me tell you about what just happened.” They respond positively and they’re happy for you to some degree, but it’s never enough. They’re not filling up that void, that emptiness, that nagging sense that you’re after.
Then it snowballs.
You kind of take it personally. We look for others to fill that void. So we move from taking it personally to blame. The blame and the taking it personally turns into a narrative:
“You don’t really care about what I’ve done”
“You don’t really love me.”
You don’t respect my work.”
All those narratives start to run through your head and you start a fight. Maybe you don’t say anything, but you are angry inside – you become passive aggressive.
You find yourself in fight with somebody who you deeply care about because they didn’t offer you the response that you were looking for. And the layers of problems stack further.
Instead of fighting with family or loved ones, you must take responsibility and practice self-acceptance and self-love for your accomplishments. Just because you’re not able to appreciate your accomplishments, doesn’t mean that the other person can do that for you.
Plus, you have no influence over other people, they will give you what they want to, no more, no less. And even if they fully celebrate your success, you can’t fill the void until you give it to yourself first.
I said to my client, “You know, what about trying to celebrate each step of the way, as we discussed?”
We talked about how important it is to stop, notice, and appreciate each step because each step is an accomplishment. Finishing is not the only source of pride and confidence one can find. We put so much pressure on that final moment to bring joy and happiness into our life that we miss the opportunity to celebrate throughout every day.
She got it. After two and a half years, and a fight with her family member, she noticed that she hadn’t celebrated along the way. And she understood that she outsourced her power to her family member by saying, “Help me feel better about this project by telling me that you understand how important or valuable it is.”
I wanted to share this story because I know I’ve done some version of this a hundred times and many of you may be setting 2017 goals. This time celebrate as you go. Celebrate setting goals. Celebrate each step. By celebrate, I mean bring your awareness to the moment of completion, no matter how small it may seem. Take a moment of pride that you completed a task and hopefully you are happy with the results.
And as you drive or walk home, try to list everything you’ve done, not everything you still need to do. Focus your awareness on results, not failure to be done with the entire goal.
And I hope you go out to dinner at the end of your next accomplishment to celebrate, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the process, the journey because most of our lives are not filled with the finish line. Most of our lives are filled with the steps that get us to the finish lines and if you don’t take the time to notice each and every one of those accomplishments, you’re really robbing yourself of all of that day-to-day joy.