It is important to celebrate success. However, in a world that constantly pushes us to aim higher and higher, always looking for the next goal, it is easy to forget how far we have come, and what we have achieved.
Taking time to celebrate your successes, large and small, ensures that you mark the milestones on your personal development journey.
Precisely what milestones you celebrate, and how you choose to celebrate them, is very personal. Each of us has to make our own choices about what we count as success, and how we set our goals. This page discusses some of the factors that may affect those decisions, and why celebrating success matters.
Why Celebrate Success?
There are two main reasons to celebrate success.
First, because we build achievement on success.
Many people find that they are inspired by their success to aim higher and further. Each promotion, each pay-rise, or each job successfully completed, encourages them towards the next goal.
They are motivated by having a goal to aim towards, and they find it useful to mark its achievement even as they look forwards.
Being successful helps people to see that they can be successful again. Celebrating success is therefore an important part of building self-confidence and self-belief.
Second, because we also need to see how far we have come.
The process of personal development tends to push us ‘onwards and upwards’.
We are encouraged to review our goals on a regular basis to see if they have been achieved. If we have achieved them, the tendency is then to set new ones designed to stretch us further and to encourage us to achieve more. In other words, rather than focusing on what’s been achieved, we look at what’s still to be done.
Doing this, however, encourages us simply to look further up the mountain of self-development. There is always more that you can achieve, more skills that you can develop, another promotion to aim towards. This constant striving for more tends to make us dissatisfied.
For the sake of our mental health, sometimes we also need to look at how far we have come. We need to see the distance that we have travelled and recognise that this, in itself, is an achievement.
The journey matters too—and that means the individual milestones along the way.
Being prepared to look back and celebrate the milestones can help to make us more resilient when we suffer setbacks, because we know that each setback is only temporary.
For more about this, see our page on Resilience.
There are also physiological reasons to celebrate success.
Celebrating and, indeed, feeling successful actually causes chemical changes in our bodies. It releases endorphins into our brains, which make us feel good. This, in turn, reinforces success and makes us more likely to want to do it again. It is, therefore, intrinsically motivating to celebrate success, especially if we do it in the right way.
Setting Goals and Defining Success
What you celebrate as success depends very much how you define success on a personal level—and that depends on your goals in life.
Both your personal vision for where you want to be in life and your goals may be more or less formal: some people are very clear about their goals, and others prefer a more flexible approach. The goals you set, and what you want to achieve, will also vary at different times of your life. However, pretty much all of us have goals of some sort.
There is more about this process in our pages on Setting Personal Goals, and Developing a Personal Vision: Defining Success.
Success is not just about big goals and major achievements
Sometimes your major goal may seem a long way away and hard to achieve. At times like that, it may be helpful to look for smaller successes to celebrate.
There may also be times when you are simply consolidating your position, or happy where you are, and you do not wish to change. However, even at those times, you are likely to have small and large successes to celebrate, both personally and at work.
For many of us, simply making it through the week is worth celebrating—and that’s fine.
The definition of success is individual.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.
The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.
How to Celebrate Success
Just as definitions of success vary from person to person, how we choose to celebrate will also vary.
This is perfectly acceptable, of course—but you need to be aware that how you choose to celebrate may affect your motivation.
In particular, if you decide to reward yourself with something material—and especially if you offer yourself a bribe (that is, you tell yourself beforehand that if you achieve something, you can have a reward)—then next time, you may find it harder to do what is necessary without a reward. In other words, providing a reward is a form of extrinsic motivation. This is less powerful than intrinsic motivation, doing it simply because you want to do so.
There is more about this in our page on self-motivation.
Ways to celebrate that support or provide intrinsic motivation include:
Reflecting on your success, and considering what you could do even better next time (and you can find out more about this approach in our page on Reflective Practice).
Including others, especially if they have contributed to your success. This helps you to remember that it is very hard to achieve on your own. Everyone likes being thanked, so this will also strengthen the connections between the group and make everyone more likely to work well together next time.
Take time to do something that you enjoy, for example, going for a walk, watching the sunset, or simply spending time with people you love.
A final thought
It may be hard to take time to celebrate success, but it is worth doing, for several reasons.
If you only ever dwell on the negatives—what you didn’t achieve, rather than how much you have done—then you tend to get very discouraged.
Celebrating your success helps ensure that you can keep going, and also that you enjoy yourself on the way.