If you’re like most career-driven Americans, you spend a lot of time thinking about the future. Identifying new ambitions and aspirations, thinking hard about out how to achieve them, and reviewing progress along the way: these are part of an annual or even quarterly cycle that many of us are familiar with.
That sort of planning for the future is an essential part of setting yourself up for success. (Try my Life Audit if you’re having trouble grounding your year in the themes and aspirations most important to you.) But there’s another, equally valuable exercise that many of us tend to forget — and this one asks us to think about the past. And that’s stopping to ask ourselves: What have I already accomplished? Think hard and think back: When was the last time you celebrated a win?
Why is this important? Here’s why you should start celebrating now:
- Celebrating your wins marks progress. Maybe it’s getting a promotion, maybe it’s walking away from a job that isn’t a great fit. Maybe it’s spending more time with your kids before they go off to college, or starting their college fund. Maybe it’s finishing a degree, or applying to schools for a new one to pursue a different passion. Whatever your accomplishment, each one carries a history of hard work and deliberation inside of it: these are meaningful and deserve to be recognized! And small wins that are part of a larger goal count, too. Celebrate the fact that you are getting closer, and that your strategy for making that big win happen is working. That is reason enough to celebrate.
- Celebrations are reminders to take a much-needed break. Before you tackle your next great challenge, soak up your accomplishments, pat yourself on the back, and breathe. Celebrate yourself however you like to be celebrated. (I personally favor spa treatments, like massages.) You’ve earned it. Savor it for a moment.
- Celebrating allows you to set bigger and bolder goals. Assuming you’ve spent some celebratory time relaxing, now’s the time to think big. Nailed your work presentations this year? Aim for a public speaking gig. Close that impossible-to-close project? Find a bigger fish. Think about how you can leverage the skills you’re currently mastering to reach bigger heights and challenges, personally and professionally. No need to push yourself to scramble up the career ladder, but do take advantage of your momentum. Your previous accomplishments show that you’re capable.
- Celebrating builds confidence. Giving yourself credit for your accomplishments is a great way to take stock of your unique talents, recognize new or improved strengths, and remind yourself of your core capabilities. It feels really good to do this – so do this often! Your strengthened sense of self ultimately makes you happier, and more inviting to be around.
- When you celebrate yourself, you invite others to celebrate you, too. If you don’t value your achievements, why should anyone else? Embrace the fact that what you’ve achieved is a big deal, and don’t be afraid to help others celebrate you, too. You may be lucky enough to have a boss who highlights your wins to her superiors and to your team, or you may not be. Your partner may recognize and congratulate you for your hard work, or they may not realize how hard you’ve been working. Often you are the best judge of what merits a celebration, so don’t wait for others to celebrate accomplishments for you, or brush your hard work off as insignificant. Remember too, that people want to celebrate you – particularly those who have helped you achieve your goals (mentors, partners, family, confidantes, etc.). Share the wealth of your joy with them by inviting them to celebrate, too. Let them revel in your good news with you.
- When you celebrate yourself, you become more attuned to others’ wins, too. Just as you may have to nudge your loved ones to celebrate your wins, they may be waiting for a congrats from you, too. Spending time to think through your accomplishments is a good reminder to check in on their accomplishments and help celebrate those, too. Keep an eye out for opportunities to celebrate your wins, and theirs.
- Celebrating breeds gratitude. When you think about all the great things you’ve managed to do, you have reason to be grateful: no matter how big or how small, you have achieved some kind of greatness. Take a minute to appreciate your efforts and intentions and give thanks. Thank yourself, as well as those who have supported you, given you advice, or helped you make progress in some other way.
- Celebrations are invitations to reflect. Is the achievement you are celebrating today as important as it was when you set after it? Is it still in line with your personal mission statement and vision for yourself and your future? Think back to why you set the goals you are now celebrating, and reflect on whether or not they still resonate with you. You may realize that certain accomplishments (such as getting a promotion) are more for the external world than for yourself. Conversely, some of your more recent failures may actually be accomplishments in disguise. Having the courage to try something new and fail isn’t easy, so be sure to take the time to reflect on those, too.
If you haven’t already, start now and carve out some time to regularly reflect on all the great things you’ve accomplished this year. Share your achievements with friends and confidantes, and bask in your glory without regret. You have earned every pat on the back that comes your way. The celebration starts as soon as you’re ready.
Ximena Vengoechea is a design researcher, writer, and illustrator whose work on personal and professional development has been published in Inc, Newsweek, and the Huffington Post. She currently works at Twitter. Follow her on Twitter and Medium.