It’s The Small Wins That Count

Small wins are actually the most important steps on the long, windy road to reaching your goal.  Humans love to celebrate the completion of big goals or crossing the finish line on huge projects, but fail to acknowledge the micro-victories that fuelled the momentum to get there.

We are so focused on the end result – whether it is reaching that ideal weight, landing that dream job, generating a certain revenue goal, writing that book, or perhaps winning that gold medal in sports – that we don’t honour our efforts and incremental wins which have a profound impact on our huge accomplishments.

Our society likes to think in terms of:  go big or go home, all or nothing, shoot for the stars.  These types of statements may be having a detrimental effect on your way of viewing success.  Larger, abstract goals are often linked to “greater psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression.”  People put themselves under a lot of pressure to achieve these goals when we adopt an all or nothing attitude toward them.  Shouldn’t we savour the steps in getting there?  Wouldn’t it be easier on us if we celebrated each tiny progress point along the way?

Few successful people talk about the long, arduous journey to achieve their level of success.  Let’s take Glennon Doyle, who wrote and worked on her blog every day for two straight years until one of her seemingly lacklustre blog posts (at least to her at the time) entitled “Don’t Carpe Diem” went viral with over one million shares.  Two weeks later she received numerous email invitations for potential book deals.  Was that an overnight success?  No, it was an almost 10-year success according to the author. 

If you take a closer look at the success stories of other famous women such as J.K. Rowling, Oprah, and Sara Blakley to only name a few, they stayed the course for years, many years and countless rejections before they experienced any notable success to mention.  However, the stepping stones, AKA small wins along their journey provided confidence, momentum to keep going, perhaps even some proof of concept showing them that they were, indeed, on the right path.

Every achievement – big or small – activates our brain’s reward circuitry.  The pathway opens up and we get the deeply satisfying release of testosterone and dopamine which leaves us feeling energized, confident and motivated. 

I would even go as far as tweaking the quote of the day to:  Small wins are the true wins on one’s path to success.  Here are my reasons why…

First of all, there won’t be any big wins without the small wins on the way there.  People tend to give up due to disappointment and frustration before reaching the ultimate end goal.  Small wins are the key drivers of momentum within us.  They energize and motivate us to continue. 

Secondly, and rather unfortunately, the big magical moments that we strive to achieve and love to celebrate, don’t happen very often.  My husband worked hard for approx. 4 years to prepare his body and mind to complete a full triathlon.  When he finally accomplished this huge moment, he was beyond happy with his accomplishment.  But moments like this, don’t take place frequently enough in our lifetime and, of course, that’s what makes them so special. Small wins happen more frequently and ultimately, have a far more significant impact on the end result. 

We underrate these micro-victories focusing on the finish line refusing to acknowledge and savour the moments that actually got us there.  So, here are some ways to set yourself up for success in attaining your goals but also honouring your efforts and progress along the way:

1.       Define your big goal.  Then break it down into many, smaller micro-steps.  For example, if you are trying to lose weight.  Choose the amount and the time period, then divide that number by how many weeks there would be.  Another example might be writing a book.  This time we are not starting with the end goal and reverse engineering it, we are starting from 0 and working our way forward.  Set aside a time and place in your home (office) to write a determined number of words each day or week.  Start with a doable amount and fill the quota every day.
2.       Create and follow a system.  Returning to the example of my husband and his triathlon training, he set up systems which led to effective training and not resulting in burn-out.  He thoroughly enjoyed the journey and meeting each milestone with vigor and elan.  The system can also be referred to as a chain of smaller stepping stones each of which is building on the other. My goal is to become a published author in 12 months, so I have to write 500 words every day. 
3.       Keep track of your progress.  It needn’t be elaborate or fancy, but it does need to be within eye sight every day.  A simple calendar and red marker to cross off the days on which you succeeded to accomplishing the daily win will suffice.  I also used a very simple concept of plain white recipe cards placed strategically on my desk.  Each day I wrote a mantra, quote or promise to myself in regard to my fitness and nutrition goals.  At the bottom I made note of the three daily task each with its own box to check off once accomplished.  To my surprise, I managed to develop a habit for my daily fitness schedule of biking 16 km and walking 3 km after only 10 days.  Having my micro-goals in front of me for most of the day, reminded me to stay on track.
4.       Set realistic goals and keep the bar low to begin with.  Making progress is a key factor in reaching our goals.  Experiencing progress provides us with the necessary rocket fuel to keep moving forward.  Even small bouts of progress can give us a surge in motivation and confidence that comes along with small wins.    
“It’s so hard as humans to keep going without a sense that we are making progress.  We lose our will to act when we can’t sense forward movement/propulsion in our efforts. For this reason, we have to pay more attention to the small wins – little glimmers of progress.  So, encourage and look for micro-progress in yourself and others; motivation is restored; confidence surges, and with it, there will be a higher likelihood of achieving your end goal and more success.” 

Some takeaways for everyday life:
Ø  Small wins help us with habit development and help us feel like we’ve accomplished something.
Ø  Small wins are important progress points on your way to your goal.  They are measurable and can easily be tracked.
Ø  Small wins should be seen as micro-victories and celebrated along the way.
Ø  Small wins create more motivation which snowballs into the development of bigger goals.
Ø  Small wins are milestones providing you with confidence that you are keeping the promises you make to yourself.
Ø  Small wins are manageable chunks of a bigger end goal.
Ø  By changing the way you look at small wins, you could completely alter your perception of the outcome.  Meaning – being pleased with the small wins and your progress points, you will be happier along the way.

Small wins hold so much power and deserve their spot in the limelight of goal achievement.  These incremental steps pave the way to success and allow us to measure our progress, without which we may not muster up the necessary motivation to push forward in the attainment of our goals.

Recognize them.

Track them.

Celebrate them.

In the words of John C. Maxwell, “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”

That’s your morning pep talk on small wins. 

Now let’s go out and tackle the day.

With love,




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