Can you name 3 things that didn’t go well today?
If you’re like me, you’re probably like, …wait – I only get three? For most of us, listing what could have gone better is second nature. It’s pretty easy to identify what didn’t go well or what we didn’t do right.
Now, can you name 3 things that did go well today?
Much harder, right?
There’s a reason why it’s harder (and no it’s not just you).
As humans, we’re wired to be negative – in fact, it’s part of our evolution. In order to survive back in our caveman days, our brain developed a built-in negativity bias, something that allowed us to scan our environment and identify potential threats and dangers. While this ultimately allowed us to survive, our negativity bias only focused on what was “wrong” (i.e. the sabretooth tiger looming in the distance), setting us up to overlook edible berries, a beautiful sunset or that killer cavewoman across the way. Even though we’ve evolved from our former days, we still have a negativity bias that predispositions us to respond to and latch onto the negative. On any given day, we could do 99 things right – like it’s legit the most perfect day in the books – but our brain would find the one thing that didn’t go well and magnify it, cancelling out those 99 things.
We’re quick to punish ourselves for our mistakes, yet we’re super slow and ultra-resistant to celebrate our wins, especially the small ones.
Three Things That Didn’t Go Well
- Way too many hits on the snooze button left me rushing through my morning.
- I’m still not doing my own workouts. Why am I so effing lazy?
- Not getting enough work done. There’s still interviews to schedule, one on one’s to have with my team, a Fall schedule to finalize – on top of a never-ending to-do list. How will it ever get done?
- I keep saying I want to create connection and be in a relationship, but I’m always too overwhelmed and stressed and busy to ever do anything with anyone. Read: I am sooooo pathetic.
- I still haven’t heard back about the Master Trainer position. What if I don’t get it? Even worse – what will my students and team think?
- Stop. Eating. So. Much. Chips. And. Guac.
- Lost my cool again. Instead of taking a mindful pause, I let all the words fly out of my mouth. I meditate. I do yoga. I even teach this stuff. Why can’t I get it right?
…and the list went on.
Ok, I thought, what about what went well? I decided to try my hand at this second list. Mind you, there was a long ass pause. Every time I’d think of something that went well, its counter would come up:
I made it onto my mat for yoga.
Yeah, but you missed taking TCX because you overslept.
Ok…well, our club was in the top ten for number of participants for the national event, Ignite the Night.
Yeah, but our yoga Summer Solstice event was actually number one in the company. Your group fitness event wasn’t.
I sighed, logically knowing this is my brain’s wiring. So, I kept at it…and a funny thing happened: the more I started to celebrate, the more there was to celebrate.
Three Things That Went Well (aka: the small wins)
- Quality time with my son playing board games.
- As a new club, placing in the top ten for a national event. It really is a big deal, even if we weren’t number one.
- Having an amazing team of passionate and driven performers. Serious job love.
- I have my own place and I can enjoy quiet time to nap, write, read or work on lessons.
- Soulful, authentic connections with my students.
- Teaching one hell of a sweaty kick-ass Warrior Sculpt on Saturday.
- Getting to my mat and taking the yoga class despite a hectic morning.
- Responding to a few emails.
- Where I’m at in my career. Considering I only made this a full-time passion two years ago, I’ve come a long way!
- That I took the time to make this list!
- Filming my classes and having the support of the Fort Washington community.
- A glowing corporate visit and review last Wednesday.
This list also went on, but instead of feeling defeated like I did with the first list, I felt energized and lit up.
As it turns out, every time we celebrate something – every time we celebrate the small wins of our day and week – like genuinely appreciate it, dopamine is released. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical that not only energizes us and gives us a sense of accomplishment and pride, it also promotes that which it’s attached to. This means that whether we’re ingesting drugs, food or celebrating wins, when dopamine is released, it signals to the brain that that activity is the source of feeling good, which causes us to crave more of whatever that thing is. It’s the reason it’s so easy for us to get addicted to our “bad” habits.
The connection between what we’re doing and how we’re feeling is important my friends because while we can all agree that the brain is malleable and we can retrain ourselves to “look for” the good, it’s the actual celebration of that good that creates the chain reaction. When we intentionally celebrate not just the big monumental things of life, but the tiny wins and steps, we’re allowing ourselves to get addicted to progress. We’re enabling ourselves to get addicted to the little things that help us see more possibility, feel more energy and succeed at higher levels.
Bottom line: The same part of the brain that get activated when we eat a cookie or smoke a cigarette also gets released when we practice celebrating our small wins.
Question is…which are you allowing yourself to become addicted to?
What we practice, we promote. And getting addicted to progress requires initiative. It takes starting and maintaining a list of daily wins and reflecting on those throughout our week, especially on our most challenging days.
Think of small wins like tiny victories. They’re the simple, sometimes mundane, accomplishments. They’re the tiny steps forward. They’re the things you do differently that are creating the person you want to become or the habits you want to embody.
Some examples of small wins:
- You didn’t annihilate your child in Target during their tantrum.
- You managed to cook dinner and do a load of laundry.
- You made it onto your mat to practice yoga.
- You dedicated 10 minutes to responding to emails.
- You didn’t flip off the person who cut you off (maybe you even sent them extra love!)
You don’t have to wait until your next birthday or anniversary to start celebrating your life. You don’t have to wait until your engaged or are pregnant. You don’t have to wait until you find the love of your life to start loving life. Life is in the details and celebration is in the moment.
This week, challenge yourself to record 3 – 5 (or more, if you’re so inclined) small wins. You can write them in your journal, tack them on post-it notes somewhere you’ll see them, keep them on your phone, or maybe start a jar of small win notes. However you decide to celebrate, simply commit to writing out your small wins daily. Here’s the most important detail: focus on completing progress goals over outcome goals. For example, celebrate that you made it to your yoga mat or meditated for 10 minutes versus completed all 30 days of yoga or finished XYZ project. Focus on the small things, the things that lead to the bigger things and get addicted to the process of making progress.
Small wins are all about effort, not outcome. What are you celebrating this week? I’d love to hear from you!