Work Smarter//

Why Celebrating Your Little Victories at Work Can Power Your Performance

Focusing on your journey, not just the end result, will help you create a more positive inner work life.

Courtesy of chris_tina / Shutterstock
Courtesy of chris_tina / Shutterstock

You shouldn’t hold off until that long-awaited promotion or the culmination of a big project to celebrate the progress you’ve made at work. Reaching a milestone should absolutely be commemorated, but what if you could experience a little sliver of that joy every day you’re in the office? Paying more attention to your little victories, in addition to your big-time accomplishments, won’t just make you happier in the workplace — it will motivate you, too. 

Bringing your attention to small wins in your daily work routine will drastically improve what Teresa Amabile, Ph.D., a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, calls your “inner work life,” or as she explains it in Harvard Business Review, your “mix of emotions, motivations, and perceptions over the course of a workday.” How happy you are, how motivated you feel by your own interest in your work, and how you view your organization, manager, team members, and the work you do all contribute to the dynamics of your inner work life, according to Amabile. And when you have a strong, stable inner work life, you’ll probably make more progress toward your goals. A study Amabile conducted shows that employees perform better when they have more positive emotions, intrinsic motivation, favorable perceptions of their work environment, and positive reinforcement from their managers.  

It’s not always easy to foster a more positive inner work life, though. In an office culture that places heavy emphasis on the bottom line, it can be all too easy to ignore day-to-day achievements and solely focus on the end result — while ignoring the process it takes to get there. “Even ordinary, incremental progress can increase people’s engagement in the work and their happiness during the workday. Across all types of events our participants reported, a notable proportion (28 percent) of incidents that had a minor impact on the project had a major impact on people’s feelings about it,” Ambile writes. Slowing down and embracing small victories can make all the difference in developing a healthier inner work life. Here’s how.

Track your progress

Paying more attention to the journey — not just your destination — will not only help you develop a growth mindset, but also give you an opportunity to identify and celebrate your small victories. “Getting to know ourselves through our work requires restructuring our mindset from focusing on results, such as a pay raise or title change, to the process of learning and improving. Worrying and placing our attention on our paychecks or titles is often unfruitful and leads us to become unhappy at work. Instead, we can invest that energy in building our skills,” Mehrnaz Bassiri, M.S., a learning and progress specialist, tells Thrive. When working on a time-consuming project or simply getting through your everyday tasks, create a road map of what needs to get done, all the way down to the small details. Maybe you need to help a co-worker draft a specific section of a report, or put the finishing touches on a presentation — no matter what kind of task is at hand, recognize when you have completed it and give yourself permission to embrace the satisfaction of getting it done.

Identify a small task that brings you joy and maximize it

You don’t need to reach a lofty goal in order to feel a sense of pride or happiness. If you take a step back and look at the entirety of your workday routine, you might be surprised at how many tasks you complete on a day-to-day basis give you a sense of purpose, help you feel a little less stressful, or simply make you grateful to be doing your work. Take some time to reflect on the things you do every single day, and write down what brings you joy and why. Do you mentor younger employees at your company, ultimately giving you a sense of intention and introspection? Maybe you do something as small as dropping mail off at your team members’ desks, and get the chance to engage in lighthearted face-to-face conversation that boosts your mood. Once you’ve identified the tasks that bring more positivity and purpose to your workday, talk to your manager or co-workers about ways you can make them a more meaningful part of your day. And while you’re at it, you can also identify a task that drains you, and discuss if you might be able to delegate the task to someone else. 

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