I think it is fair to say that we all need a cheering section. People standing on the sidelines applauding as we move toward our goals or more importantly, just through the day. Just as the bystanders in a marathon energize the runners , our cheering sections should keep us moving forward in a positive manner. But even if we do have a cheering section, the truth is sometimes we are just too busy and stressed to pay attention.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in to-do lists, projects, deliverables, or daily errands that oftentimes we forget look at what we have already done, and what has already been accomplished. When we fall into that trap, we are in danger of losing our biggest cheerleader–ourselves. It’s not surprising that most of us focus on what hasn’t been done, what hasn’t been crossed off the list. We are wired to fixate more on the negative than the positive. It is simply the negativity bias kicking in and trying to keep us safe. The problem is that this can set us on a treadmill of continual effort to finish things, without any of the satisfaction that we anticipate when we do. If we don’t take the time to celebrate ourselves and our achievements when they happen, we risk experiencing longterm burnout.
Any good business leader will tell you that in order to keep projects on task, it is imperative to provide constant positive feedback in a realtime fashion. Not only does it help keep people on track, it helps to build confidence, creativity, and enthusiasm. The same holds true in our personal lives. And as we manage our personal lives, it is just as important to recognize positive behaviors and actions in order to keep our own momentum flourishing.
One way to do this is to take some time each week and review what has been accomplished. This is especially important when focusing on longterm goals such as weight loss or changing to healthier eating habits. It is so easy to get discouraged if we don’t feel we are where we should be or where we had planned to be. So during this personal review session, focus on what did happen, not what didn’t. Every step we take is part of a process that leads to a milestone, and those steps deserve to be celebrated just as much as the ultimate goal.
The next step is to decide how to reward yourself. Sometimes just recognizing how much you have accomplished is enough to provide satisfaction. Sometimes, though, the rewards should be more tangible. Remember–bonuses serve a great purpose in the workplace, and they can do the same in our personal space. Maybe it’s an afternoon out , or a new pair of jeans, or even a spa day. Perhaps it is a walk in the woods or coffee with friends. The goal here is to reward yourself and break up the routine, since routine can be deadly to progress. Once we fall into a routine we are more likely to function on autopilot and get through the day without really thinking about what we are doing. When that happens we are less likely to recognize our progress, and that threatens our momentum and enthusiasm. Without enthusiasm, it is much more difficult to see a project or a goal through to completion.
So give yourself a break and celebrate what you’ve done this week. Chances are you have accomplished more than you give yourself credit for. Once you realize that and allow yourself to feel satisfied about what has been done rather than what remains to do, you will find that you have much more energy to keep moving forward. And having more energy should be a great reason to be your own best cheerleader.
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