You did a thing! You accomplished a goal you had set out for yourself, and it took hard work to get there. It might have been a large goal that took months or years; it might have been a smaller goal. But you can dust your hands — you achieved something!
…But now you’re having trouble internalizing your accomplishment. Maybe you struggle with impostor syndrome and have trouble acknowledging when kudos and accolades from your colleagues and support network are deserved. Your self-doubt is holding you back from really feeling good about what you achieved. Or maybe, your support network isn’t very supportive. If you’ve ever excitedly told a friend or family member about something to have them say, “Well, I knew that would happen,” you might have felt a little disheartened. While it’s nice that they have faith in you, they haven’t exactly made you feel like celebrating. Worse yet, you don’t feel comfortable enough to tell anyone at all.
You might feel that the best thing to do at this point is to brush your accomplishment aside and refocus on the next task. You might even begin to doubt that your accomplishment is worth acknowledging at all. If you succumb to the zombies of self-doubt, you risk burnout, loss of motivation, and being generally bummed out. Besides that, the zombies are really not good for your self-esteem. I struggle against them myself. Here’s what I’ve come up with to try to help remind myself to be my own cheerleader and celebrate my accomplishments.
Celebrate completing steps toward the goal
Even before you accomplish a goal, you should be keeping track of each step towards the finish line. Make lists and make sure to cross finished items off. Acknowledge when you’ve finished a section. Are you trying to write a book? Have a mini-celebration every time you finish a chapter. Spur yourself on by patting yourself on the back for the steps you’ve taken rather than worrying about everything that’s left to do. Consider starting a blog just to track your steps as you complete them. Even if no one reads it, it’s good to reflect upon the process yourself. It helps you really internalize how much work went into your achievement. Speaking of reflection…
Many moons ago, I wrote a post on the Offbeat Empire blog about a practice we have in place at our weekly meetings where we share something we’ve accomplished that week, whether it’s related to work or not. I said:
[Every meeting, Ariel] asks us to reflect on the past week (recognize that time has passed!) and identify things that we may not have realized are accomplishments. Even if I have nothing particularly epic to share, I’m confronted with the past week’s activities and I take the time to differentiate between the mundane and the fantastic. One week the accomplishment might be something huge, and another week it could be smaller. The point is recognizing that since another week has passed, you’ve accomplished something.
This boils down to being mindful of what you’ve done with your day, week, month, year, etc. Take time to reflect on the work you put in to accomplish your goal. Think it over, write it down, tell someone who you know will be supportive. Think about the good things accomplishing your goal will afford you — like how helpful your scholarship will be, or how much free time you’ll have now that your project is done. Process it. Take a deep breath and let it out. Feel satisfied. But don’t stop there. After you work on internalizing your accomplishment, celebrate it!
Indulge your inner hedonist
Take time out to do something that you enjoy that doesn’t contribute at all to anything except your happiness and pleasure. Make an appointment with yourself and honour it. Play video games for hours. Watch episode after episode on Netflix. Go out with friends. Go on a date. Do anything that you might want to do while you’re working but can’t without that nagging guilt. But here’s the kicker: while you’re indulging, acknowledge why. Tell people you’re celebrating your accomplishment by taking this time to yourself. Tell yourself. Out loud, if you have to. “I am going to play four hours of Portal 2 and drink beer and do nothing else because I am celebrating my accomplishment.” “I’m making time for that all-day canoe trip that I couldn’t make time for before because I am celebrating my accomplishment.” Whatever you want to do, do it.
The most important thing about this strategy is that you have blocked this time out to guiltlessly indulge. It’s not the same as when you’re procrastinating and “wasting time.” Channel your inner Hedonismbot and devote yourself to the task of non-productive gratification!
Rewards are different from indulgences in that an indulgence is an activity, while a reward is something tangible. Have you ever told yourself that you’ll wait until you’re done a task or project before you buy something just for yourself? That’s a reward. If you accomplish a big goal and you want to treat yourself to the new shoes you’ve been eyeing for months, you can feel good about the purchase because it’s your reward. When someone compliments your new purchase, you can say “Thanks! I got it cause I passed the bar exam!” Every time you use the item you can take a second to reflect on your achievement and really internalize it. Post a picture of it on Facebook and Instagram with a caption explaining what it commemorates. Having a record of it helps you internalize it more. And bonus: you’ve just been shown off your accomplishment to your friends in a no-pressure way. They can easily “like” it to show you they care about you, and you’ll get the warm fuzzies without feeling like you’re confronting someone and asking them to praise you.
Just don’t go over your budget because this could spiral into feelings of guilt that will bleed over into self-doubt about the accomplishment. Come to think of it, putting money away while you work toward your goal for the reward you want could be a fantastic motivator. Treat yo’ self!
What are your strategies for acknowledging your accomplishments? Do you have a goal-achievement ritual? What works best for you?