In my last post, I wrote about the idea of THERE. That illusory place we dream of being after we’ve accomplished our accomplishments. THERE is where we relax. THERE is where we’ll be someone different. THERE is where we’ve made it!
But, as I pointed out, there is no THERE. There’s only here.
Still, the truth is, most of us have accomplished various goals and dreams we set out to do. Big or small, we all have victories. Some of us have rather huge victories. And we forget to mention this to ourselves in our moments of low self-esteem. We forget to realize that lots of our former THERES are now HERES.
Every good dog trainer will tell you that the best way to teach your dog tricks is to give your dog treats. Reward her endlessly for even the smallest attempts she makes towards the final goal. Never ever punish her.
Early on after I found my dog, (and after she had gotten over her abuse and terror) Mickey and I wanted her to catch food in the air. It wasn’t a huge goal, so it became more like a hobby. We’d pop popcorn. We’d sit on the sofa with a huge bowl of it and munch. Our dog would watch us. We threw popcorn at her, kernel by kernel. It was pathetic. She looked utterly confused each time the kernels bounced off of her nose and her forehead. She’d watch them fly by as if she were watching a tennis match. She would then run after them, pick them up, and look at us again as we pelted her with more popcorn kernels.
One time, after many nights of this routine, she just opened her mouth and caught one of the kernels. We were utterly shocked. (So was she!) For a brief moment, the three of us just looked at each other dumfounded. Then, Mickey and I jumped up as if she had scored the winning goal. We congratulated her and patted her and yelled “Good girl! Good girl!” It was our own little living room version of the 1951 Dodgers/Giants game where Russ Hodges keeps yelling, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”
We sat down and threw popcorn at her again. And she caught every piece. She got it. She knew exactly what to do. Now, the only time she doesn’t open her mouth and catch treats is when I toss a piece of raw broccoli at her. She lets it bounce off her nose, and keeps looking at me as if to say, “I am so over you.”
Now, I’m not comparing you to a dog. (Though you could do worse than being my dog, that’s for sure.) But I am saying that no matter whether you’re four or two-legged, reward is a motivating factor. Reward reminds us that we’ve done something brave. Acknowledging ourselves for completions, for victories, for courageous acts is the one thing we all almost always forget to do.
Celebrate Your Victories
What have you achieved? What debts have you paid off? What courageous acts have you performed? It doesn’t matter if they’re not courageous in someone else’s eyes. What was a big deal for you ? Was it giving birth? Buying a house? Moving to another town? Writing a book? Giving a speech? Asking someone out? Quitting a job that was not right for you? Starting a business? Doing an open-mic night?
And here’s the question: Have you celebrated this accomplishment?
At the last retreat I facilitated, one of the participants and I were talking about how we never celebrate our personal victories. We both laughed about how we watch these huge things go by, and then we’re off and doing the next thing. I got an idea that we would have a celebration that night at our dinner.
I rounded up all twenty women and told them that this dinner was a celebration for our victories. One of the participants spoke up and said that she had paid off her college loans that year and had never celebrated. We all applauded. I, for one, never celebrated paying off both of my last two CD’s, which each cost about $30,000 to make. And so I celebrated that. Other women celebrated everything from publishing a book of poetry to sticking with breast-feeding through lots of social pressure to stop. Everyone got a big round of applause and off we went to our celebratory dinner on the deck. It wasn’t a big huge deal. But it was a ceremony. It was a celebration. Most of us forget to stop and do this because we’re off and running to the next thing. We’re off pushing ourselves to achieve one more thing that we’ll likely forget to congratulate ourselves for.
Why To Celebrate
In her most excellent book Coach Yourself to Success, Talane Miedaner writes, “The more you appreciate the success you have already achieved, the more success you will attract. Tough life, isn’t it?”
She’s right. When you begin recognizing your own achievements, you set yourself up for more. It’s exactly the same principle I wrote about in my post on Gratitude. What you focus on grows. It has no choice. You are that powerful.
On a more basic level, you need recognition and validation. It’s an inner-child thing. And sometimes, you’re the only one who knows to even give it to you. The credit card company isn’t going to call you up and say, “We’d like to take you out for dinner and champagne because you’ve been working so diligently to pay off this debt, and we’ve all been watching and rooting for you, and we are so proud of you.”
If you’re waiting for the world to acknowledge you, then stop waiting. Be ballsy and acknowledge yourself. Oprah says, “You teach people how to treat you.” Well, I would add that you teach the universe how to treat you as well. You say, “This accomplishment matters enough that I’m celebrating.” And the universe says, “Yea it does!”
Celebrating completes things. Even a small celebration, like our dinner at the retreat, is a gesture of finishing. It wraps up the old energy and lets you move on with renewed energy.
How to Celebrate
If you’re too shy or embarrassed to have a celebration just for you, invite your friends over and have your own collective celebration dinner. Tell them in advance what this is, and begin the evening by congratulating each other for these successes. Make a toast to each of you. Have a festive evening.
If you’re not shy, do a dinner just for you!
Or you can: take a day off to lie around in bed and read a book. Call it “I Rock!” Day. Go to a spa. Get a manicure. Get a celebratory massage. (Be sure to tell the massage therapist that’s what it is so that s/he can hold that energy for you during the massage.)
Whatever you do, do it with intent and clarity. Know that you’re celebrating.
Begin Now by Writing down Your Accomplishments
This is challenging, but it’s a great place to start. This week, starting now, begin a list in your journal of “100 Accomplishments, Achievements, and Things I’m Proud Of.”
When I first started working with a coach, my first assignment from him came after he realized how hard I can be on myself. He assigned me to write a list of 100 things I was proud of myself for doing or being or becoming. It was a challenging assignment, but it taught me a lot about myself. In high school, I was often considered irresponsible or lazy or unfocused. When I looked at that list, it helped me see that it was time to shed those labels I had been carrying for so many years.
Remember the most important thing: What you focus on grows. I believe one of the reasons my dog has turned out to be as amazing and happy and perfect as she is (popcorn and all) is because I’ve written so many funny songs to her with the words “Good” and “Girl” in the title.
We all need someone like me to sing to us. Be that person for you!