What is the image of success that you have in your mind? We might think that success means being able to collect material possessions, achieve certain professional status or having a particular amount of money in the bank. But what about successes in everyday life? The things that go unseen such as the accomplishment of meaningful tasks, living with purpose, finding courage to do new things, resisting temptation, mastering a skill?
People move through their lives never celebrating success because they often don’t recognize when they have been successful. Our personal definition of success greatly influences our perception of self and the meanings we place on our experiences. Developing your authentic and personalized definition of success is key when talking about healthy ways to celebrate.
Why Celebrate Success?
Psychologist and author of Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion and Pride, David DeSteno, PhD, studies the relationships between emotions and success. In his work, DeSteno shares that emotions, such as pride, can lead people to greater future success. Regarding prosocial emotions such as gratitude, compassion and pride, he states:
“These feelings – gratitude, compassion and pride – are easier to generate than the willpower and self-denial that underpin traditional approaches to self-control and grit. And while willpower is quickly depleted, prosocial emotions actually become stronger the more we use them.”
Dr. DeSteno goes on to share that not only are these prosocial emotions that we would experience when celebrating help us develop greater resiliency and motivation for the future, but they are also contagious. He states, “Those around us become more likely to apply them when we do.” How wonderful is that? We can enjoy the benefits of celebrating our accomplishments while also encouraging those around us to achieve and celebrate their own.
Celebrating vs. Rewarding
When we think of celebrating we may think about rewarding ourselves after accomplishing a goal or job well done. Although rewarding yourself may feel the same as celebrating, a reward suggests that there is no continuation of effort in that particular task after earning the prize. Celebrating is about an appreciation of the process, your effort, those who have supported you along the way and where you would like to go next.
Extrinsic motivation is when we feel motivated to complete a task because we want to earn an external reward, such as a gift, ribbon, trophy or money. The process of completing the task becomes more about the final outcome than the process and effort required to complete the task. When we rely too much on extrinsic motivation and reward, it can be difficult to find the energy to engage in the task itself when that external reward is removed.
Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is motivation that comes from within rather than focusing only on the outcome or reward. This type of motivation has more to do with the process and effort of the task than the outcome. When intrinsically motivated, people will engage in a task for the joy of doing so, even if there is no trophy to be won at the end. Celebrating success in a healthy way allows us to enhance the positive emotion around our effort, further increasing our intrinsic motivation
How to Celebrate in a Healthy Way
There are a few simple ways that you can celebrate your success and promote motivation to continue on your journey to personal fulfillment.
What is it that you are celebrating? Sure, winning the game or meeting your sales quota would be reasons to celebrate, but if we take away the outcome and look at the journey it took to get there, what would you want to celebrate most? Take time to reflect on things like the elements of your value system that guided your decision making and the personal strengths that helped you achieve your goal.
In your reflection, you might ask yourself questions like:
What did I enjoy most about this journey?
What strengths did I use?
What do I feel most confident about?
How did I overcome obstacles along the way?
Answering questions like these in your reflection can help clarify what it is that you are celebrating about your success. When you are mindful about what you are celebrating, you are practicing gratitude and enhancing personal strengths that will likely be used in future tasks. Give your celebration meaning and purpose to build confidence for the next challenge.
When celebrating success it can be easy to forget others who may have helped us, in ways big or small, to reach the finish line. Including others in your celebration is a wonderful way to build and strengthen connection with coworkers, loved ones or others who helped you along the way. Give them specific feedback about the ways that they helped you achieve your goal and express gratitude for their help.
People enjoy feeling helpful, appreciated and connected. When you celebrate success with others you are nurturing the kind of meaningful relationships that allow those same people to want to help you in the future.
In our fast-paced society we seem to always be focused on the future. When we have reached one goal we quickly move on to the next, often with no celebration at all. In fact, sometimes it can feel uncomfortable for people to celebrate their own success for fear that they would be drawing too much attention to themselves or setting themselves up for embarrassment.
Celebrating your success, especially in the ways we are talking about here, includes slowing down to appreciate and live the experience of your success with those who are important to you.
Celebrate in fun ways that nurture your mind, body, and spirit. Decide to celebrate in ways that speak to you and what you enjoy most. Examples of ways to celebrate while nurturing at the same time include:
Dinner party with loved ones
Walk or jog in the park
Watch sunrise or sunset
Massage or spa treatment
Game night with friends
Start a new journal
Go on an adventure
Try a new hobby
A Word From Verywell
An important piece of celebrating your success in healthy ways is to simply take the time to do it. Enjoy your efforts, energy, and accomplishments. Include others who have helped you along the way and remember to celebrate in ways that nurture your mind, body and spirit.