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The Most Overlooked Strategy for Success

Put the power of personal victories to work.

Key points

  • Personal victories that create a success mindset are readily available to us if we ackowledge them.
  • Celebrating your achievements, no matter how small, is an essential practice for success.
  • Getting tasks done, trying something new, and positively engaging others are examples of personal victories.

Your brain is a three-pound universe that processes 70,000 thoughts each day using 100 billion neurons that connect at more than 500 trillion points through synapses with signals that travel 300 miles/hour. These signals that travel through these interconnected neurons form the basis of memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Your brain, however, preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences. It’s like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories naturally grows faster.

Given the natural negative bias in our brains, we need to make a conscious effort to steer our focus toward our successes to move our lives in a positive direction.

Personal Victories Break Through Negativity

Success is often a culmination of small, everyday triumphs that move you closer to your objectives. I call these "personal victories."

The power of seeing and acknowledging your personal victories is profound and can have a significant impact on your well-being, self-esteem, and overall outlook. Celebrating your achievements, no matter how big or small, is an essential practice for personal growth and development.

Personal victories for success can vary greatly depending on your goals, circumstances, and aspirations. Here are some positive psychology strategies (often leading to personal victories) drawn from my book, The Anxiety, Depression, & Anger Toolbox for Teens. (They apply to all ages.)

1. Set and accomplish daily goals. Creating a to-do list and successfully completing the tasks on it is a simple but powerful way to measure and celebrate daily victories, leading to larger accomplishments over time.

As an example of a small yet empowering goal, consider the wisdom of the goal of making your bed, suggested by Admiral William McRaven in a YouTube clip viewed over 18 million times. He states, "If you can't do the little things right, you'll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made, that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. So if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed."

2. Stick to a morning routine. Successfully waking up early and following a structured morning routine can set a positive tone for the rest of the day, helping you be more productive and focused.

3. Complete a workout or exercise routine. Achieving your daily or weekly workout goals, whether it's a certain number of steps, a set routine, or a fitness class, is a victory for your physical and mental well-being.

4. Practice gratitude and mindfulness. Taking a moment to reflect on the positive aspects of your life, express gratitude, and practice mindfulness can enhance your mental well-being and contribute to a successful and balanced life. Beth, a 27-year-old client, felt an infusion of clarity and motivation in response to starting a gratitude journal.

5. Learn and improve a new skill. Dedicate time each day to learn a new skill or improve an existing one, whether it's a language, a musical instrument, coding, or a hobby. Small, consistent efforts add up to significant progress.

6. Overcome a fear or step out of your comfort zone. Taking a brave step, facing a fear, or doing something that pushes you beyond your comfort zone can be a significant personal victory that leads to personal growth and success. Gary, a 40-year-old client, expressed that he was feeling lonely. We agreed he would enroll in some dance classes. He later reported, "I may not have much natural rhythm but I met a wonderful woman that I'm now seeing."

7. Save or invest money. Putting aside a portion of your income into savings or investments, no matter how small, is a financial victory that sets you on the path to financial security and success in the long run.

8. Maintain a healthy diet and making nutritious food choices. Opting for healthier food options, preparing balanced meals, and staying consistent in your dietary choices contribute to your overall well-being and long-term health, an essential aspect of personal success.

9. Improve time management. Successfully managing your time, prioritizing tasks, and focusing on high-priority activities help you become more efficient and effective in achieving your goals.

10. Show kindness and compassion. Acts of kindness, whether big or small, contribute to your personal success by fostering positive relationships and creating a positive impact on the world around you.

How Recognizing Your Victories Can Be Empowering

I have watched the demeanors and postures of my clients positively change in front of my eyes when they acknowledge their personal victories, Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence. Acknowledging your accomplishments reinforces a positive self-image and boosts self-esteem. It helps you recognize your abilities and skills, promoting confidence in your capability to overcome challenges and succeed in the future.
  2. Motivates Further Progress. Celebrating your victories serves as motivation to keep pushing forward and achieve even more. When you see what you've accomplished in the past, it fuels your determination and commitment to set and achieve new goals.
  3. Provides Perspective. Reflecting on your personal victories helps you gain perspective on how far you've come. It's easy to lose sight of your progress amid the day-to-day grind, but recognizing your achievements reminds you of the progress you've made on your journey.
  4. Fosters Resilience. Being aware of the obstacles you've overcome and the successes you've experienced instills a sense of resilience. It reminds you that you have the ability to navigate challenges and come out stronger on the other side.
  5. Encourages a Positive Mindset. Focusing on your victories promotes a positive mindset by shifting your attention from failures or setbacks to what you've accomplished. This positive outlook can lead to improved mental well-being and a more optimistic approach to life.
  6. Enhances Gratitude and Contentment. Reflecting on your personal victories encourages gratitude for the opportunities you've had and the hard work you've put in. It cultivates a sense of contentment and satisfaction with what you have achieved.
  7. Inspires Others. Sharing your personal victories and the journey it took to achieve them can inspire others. Your success story might encourage someone else to persevere through their challenges and work toward their own goals.
  8. Helps Set Realistic Goals. Reflecting on your victories can guide you in setting realistic, achievable goals based on your past experiences. It allows you to set targets that align with your abilities and aspirations.
  9. Strengthens Relationships. Sharing your victories with loved ones and supporters can strengthen relationships. It allows them to celebrate with you and reinforces the sense of community and support in your life.
  10. Improves Overall Happiness. Recognizing and appreciating your personal victories contributes to an overall sense of happiness and satisfaction with your life. It emphasizes the positive aspects of your journey and encourages a more joyful outlook.

Personal victories for success are subjective and unique to each individual. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and recognize that progress and success are the result of consistent effort and determination over time. In summary, acknowledging and celebrating your personal victories is a powerful tool for personal growth. It helps you build confidence, stay motivated, maintain a positive mindset, and appreciate the progress you've made on your unique path.


Bernstein, J. (2020), The Anxiety, Depression & Anger Toolbox for Teens: 150 Powerful Mindfulness, CBT & Positive Psychology Activities to Manage Emotions, PESI Publishing, EuClaire, WA.

Carroll E. Izard (2009). Emotion Theory and Research: Highlights, Unanswered Questions, and Emerging Issues. Annu Rev Psychol. 2009; 60: 1–25. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163539

Fernández-Martín, F. D., Arco-Tirado, J. L., & Hervás-Torres, M. (2020). Grit as a predictor and outcome of educational, professional and personal success: A systematic review. Psicología Educativa, 26(2), 163-173. []

McRaven., William H. (2014). University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address,

Seligman, M. (2019). Positive Psychology: A Personal History, Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15:1, 1-23

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