There is a navy-blue mug in my kitchen cabinet with pretty, white cursive that reads, “Celebrate the small victories.” I purchased this mug for $5.00 at Target on an afternoon when my husband (then fiancé) was sick and needed me to pickup some Theraflu. I like to collect mugs because I believe each one can tell a story. As I like to call my morning coffee my “hug in a cup,” despite how silly it may sound, I believe that what I pour my coffee into helps shape my morning routine.
My mug with Aragorn from Lord of the Rings sends my mind to thoughts of bravery and loyalty.
My mug that says “Pumpkin Spice Everything” puts a smile on my face and makes me want to put on the coziest sweater and jump in a pile of leaves.
My mug that says, “This girl loves sleep” (which I typically reserve for my evening tea) encourages a yawn.
I could go on and on with the overflow of mugs in our kitchen, but the point is, the messages we see, read, and accept, have an influence on our thoughts, minds, and actions.
When I drink from my “Celebrate the small victories” mug, I recount in my mind the small things I have accomplished. Small things add up. Small things matter just as much as the big things, because often times you can’t have one without another, and often times, it is the small victories such as saying “no” to the snooze button on your alarm or finishing a book that you were committed to reading, that can make a difference.
It’s easy to feel like the “big victories” are what matter. You know, those things that will get other people noticing your success. Those things that turn heads and make ripples. It’s natural to desire major victories- who wouldn’t want that? Big victories are made up of a dozen small victories though. People who are have been delivered from the enslavement of drugs and alcohol celebrate the big victories such as year anniversaries. When I personally got sober though, I had to start out by celebrating one day at a time. One day sober may seem miniscule in the grand scheme of things, but recently I acknowledged 3.5 years sober, and I had to stop and think about all of those small, daily victories that added up to the 3.5 years I now have.
So, what else can small victories look like? Perhaps it looks like asking for help when you don’t know the answer, or maybe it is having a healthy conversation with your co-worker when you don’t see eye to eye. What if victory for you looked like sticking to your schedule that day because you struggle with consistency? On the other hand, what if practicing flexibility with your schedule was a victory you needed?
When we begin to acknowledge and then celebrate the small victories we accomplish every single day, we start realizing that every moment matters. Time becomes more precious and actions are marked with intention. You better believe that the mornings I get up at my first alarm, I start celebrating. It’s a victory for me.
Your victories might not seem like victories to other people, and that’s one reason you should never assess your success by the approval and celebration you receive from others. Other people’s approval does not determine victory or defeat. All too often though, that becomes the norm. Success is ruled by another person’s opinion.
I don’t believe one can lead well if they walk in a mindset of defeat. When it starts becoming habitual to celebrate the small things, recognizing that small things can still be hard things and each victory matters, we will then be able to better celebrate those around us. We don’t have to understand why something is a victory to someone, but we can acknowledge that it is, and we can encourage them in it. I might not ever understand why it is a victory to show up at work on time (as I tend to always be early), but for someone who struggles greatly with timeliness, getting to work on time is a victory!
Victories come in all shapes and sizes- there is nothing cookie cutter about it. Working for a leadership consulting company has taught me a lot about serving others. As humans, it isn’t our natural instinct to think of others first. We look out for ourselves. Sometimes victory can look like taking the small steps necessary to serve others. As Mike said, “When you take a small step to serve others, value others, and encourage others, you are doing the right thing- so celebrate it.”
I do want to be clear that celebrating the small (or big) victories in your life is not a prideful thing to do. It isn’t wrong to acknowledge your accomplishments- in fact, it’s healthy. It becomes wrong when celebration turns into boasting. Celebrate that victory, but don’t celebrate it in a puffed up “look at me” kind of way. Continually keep your heart in check as you seek to identify the victories in your life.
Today, I encourage you to start paying attention to those small wins in your life that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Your decision to read a book or ask for help or go to bed earlier so you get up on time- those things matter, and I want you to identify specific things in your life that can be celebrated. What if work culture celebrated the small victories of everyone? Wouldn’t that draw colleagues closer together? What if church culture celebrated all the ways- big and small- that God consistently is at work. Earlier this week, a woman at my church told me a story about her former pastor who would always say, “Yay God” whenever someone had a praise report or spoke about the way God was working in their lives. “Yay God” is a way to operate out of a place of celebration. There is good that is happening all around us- even when the world may seem like it’s been shaken up and turned upside down. Celebration shouldn’t cease when life gets difficult.
As we celebrate our small victories, we will learn how to better celebrate those around us, and that will create community and deeper relationships which then spur one another on to do better and be better.
It starts small, and I don’t believe anything good is ever too small to celebrate.
So here’s to growth. Our growth.