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5 Ways to Celebrate Success and Reaching Your Goals at Work

Here are simple and practical ways to celebrate the small wins.

Key points

  • Beyond celebrating the big achievements, acknowledging progress is key.
  • Celebrating daily wins can build one's sense of self-efficacy and lead to more success.
  • There are practical ways one can make the invisible visible and celebrate wins.

Work-related celebrations are often associated with major milestones, such as new roles, promotions, or retirements. While these are significant achievements, it is important to celebrate the small wins, too, as it fosters professional engagement and team morale. The reality is that major accomplishments are often the result of a multitude of small wins. Learning how to celebrate those small progress wins builds momentum and supports achieving long-term goals more consistently.

Think of “progress celebrations” as crossing mini markers along a racecourse, working towards a finish line. If we only celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime achievements, careers can become one very long ultra-marathon race!

So, what can we start celebrating in the meantime?

Completing projects, meeting quotas, receiving praise, and giving a presentation are just some examples that warrant recognition. What about speaking up during a meeting or having a difficult conversation? Taking a risk and pursuing a career change? And what about simply recognizing that you showed up today?!

When we explore why trained talent are leaving their fields, it is often because they aren’t feeling effective. There’s a feeling that they never reach a goal, which means there’s no sense of accomplishment, and the work never feels finished. Before we have a moment to recognize our accomplishments or daily wins or even to take a deep breath or engage in some form of self-care, we jump to the next thing on our list and start stressing about that not being done yet. Our never-ending to-do lists drain our motivation (really, when have you ever finished everything on your to-do list?!). We need daily wins that build our sense of self-efficacy and the belief that we can get things done! This is a healthy mindset to be in.

Yet, many of us don’t feel comfortable cheering for ourselves. Some view it as boastful to share accomplishments with others, even when we are proud of them. Some of us are self-critical and feel guilty that we haven’t completed enough.

The great news is that it doesn’t have to be a big party to feel rewarding. From the research, we know that reaching goals and celebrating successes activates the reward center of our brain. The neurotransmitter dopamine is released, which gives a sense of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation.

Creating systems of reward and celebration that align with your goals can also lead to increased productivity. Building in time to celebrate our wins also supports our self-efficacy and connection to our work. When we take time to celebrate even the smallest achievements and improvements, we bring awareness to our progress. And seeing progress is what keeps so many of us on course!

Here are some ways you can celebrate success and the accomplishment of reaching your goals at work:

1. Pick a top three of the day.

Planning ahead can help us achieve our goals more effectively. This strategy involves identifying three key items that you can realistically accomplish toward your goal and planning how to celebrate these accomplishments.

For example:

1. Hard presentation today = Coffee break with my work friend afterward.

2. Build project map = 20-minute walk during my lunch break.

3. Responded to 10 emails = one favorite song break (3 minutes of personal time out).

2. Track your progress.

Do you remember the gold star charts your teacher had in your classroom when you were younger? It’s simple, but it works! Pick a goal that you are working towards and make your progress visible. You can even create a running list of your work-related accomplishments and revisit them when you need a reminder of all that you are capable of. Reflect on what has worked in the past and use that as motivation to support your journey ahead.

3. Practice self-care.

Self-care is not selfish. Time to rest and then replenish is invaluable, and often cannot wait until something is entirely “done.” Celebrate the small wins by doing something that feels good to you, like getting out in nature, listening to a podcast, having a coffee, going for a walk, reading, or meditating. Try scheduling even 15-minute blocks of time into your calendar and notice the difference it makes in your well-being. Self-care is part of professional greatness.

4. Celebrate as a team.

Celebrating team accomplishments together can boost employee morale and help teammates see that their role serves a purpose in the company and that everyone is valuable in their work towards the collective goal. Plus, it’s fun! Try getting together in a social setting outside of work, such as grabbing lunch or partaking in a team-building activity like an escape room.

5. Share it with others.

Share your success with the people on your team or in your life who helped to make it possible. A simple “thank you” can go a long way and create feelings of gratitude and appreciation. A strategy here is to make an accountability partner out of a friend or co-worker with whom you can share a quick message or phone call to cheer you on and keep you on track toward your goals.

Productivity paranoia is rampant in the current professional landscape, and the hustle to do more and be more is increasingly seen as a sign of accomplishment. Yet, we know that using “when everything is finished” as the only marker of when you can celebrate, take a break, and rest leads to burnout. The reality is that there will always be more work to get done. Instead, we can choose to celebrate our personal wins and the accomplishments of our teams to keep up motivation and positivity as we continue to do the good work.

This is your invitation to honor your hard work—find some finish lines you can cross today, celebrate them, and be sure to also have a done list for all the things you did get done today and were not on your to-do list!

More from Robyne Hanley-Dafoe Ed.D.
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