When you celebrate something you did, you fire positive emotions that teach your pliable sweet brain: I can trust myself to keep my commitments! It feels good to take action! I did my scary sh*t and nothing ate me!
And when you don’t acknowledge what you did, when you don’t say “Yay! I wrote my 750 words” or “Sweet! I walked 10,000 steps” it’s easy to plunge into a deep hole where your story is “I never do enough” and “Why bother?” or “I did it but it wasn’t perfect so it doesn’t count.”
And that hole? It can feel impossible to climb out of.
But guess what? It’s not! All you have to do is notice what you did and celebrate it!
In other words, it is never too late to celebrate.
Celebration is a fantastic self-trust builder, which then motivates you to take more action, try more new things and experiment in a new area. Think about it: if you don’t acknowledge what you did, there is nothing to trust because it feels like you did zip.
So… make celebration a habit and watch your mood and productivity soar.
Okay, Jen but what exactly do you mean by celebration? Throw a party? Ride an elephant down Main Street? Treat myself to a massage?
As fun as all those sound, those are rewards and what I’m talking about is way smaller than an elephant and doesn’t cost any money or take more than 5 to 10 seconds.
This kind of celebration is about focusing on what you did but not how you did it and acknowledging that in a positive way.
My most common way to celebrate? Stretching my arms over head, giving myself a big smile, and declaring out loud with attitude, “Nobody dims my shine!”
Finish your writing for the day? Give yourself a thumbs up and “Way to go sweetheart.”
Get to yoga class when you wanted to head home and veg? Celebrate walking out the door of the studio by blessing yourself with a bow and hugging yourself.
Floss your teeth? Celebrate by a hand on your hip and declaring in the mirror, “You are so beautiful!”
Wait, is that squirming I hear?
Are you thinking, “I would never, ever in a million years do this, way too jazz hands happy dance for cynical me” or maybe you hear a voice of a parent warning, “Don’t you go getting a big head.” Or, you could be worrying that acknowledging yourself will make you lazy. Or the idea of celebrating is a snore because as soon as you’re done with one thing, you are on the next thing. Why look back?
I get it. I can relate. Plus, it’s hard to remember to do it.
ONLY THING IS: IT’S A TRULY POWERFUL PRACTICE
Where else are you going to do something for 5-10 seconds that costs nothing that can change how you see yourself? That can rewire your brain? Build your self-confidence? Remind you of how much you can do?
I have seen the power of celebration – or as one student calls it “the pause that builds self-trust” – change lives. Profoundly. So, why not commit to giving it a try for just one week? Simply:
1: Name what you will do sans outcome
Otherwise you don’t have anything to celebrate. And sans outcome is crucial because when we focus solely on outcome instead of clear commitments to ourselves, we fall into comparison hell or perfectionism. And contrary to what your inner naysayer whines, perfectionism doesn’t spur you to grow and learn; perfectionism trains you to put the focus on what others think and want, which we all know is an impossible way to live our lives.
Detach from your story — that everything you do has to work out the exactly the way you wanted or it doesn’t count — by celebrating the actions you took.
2: Recall a natural expression of “Yay I did it!” and do that immediately after you did what you said you would do
The immediate part is important as it helps your brain associate taking action with feeling good. And if you can’t think of any natural expression of “Yay!” then copy mine or make one up. It’s helpful to involve the body in some way (stretching, wiggling, smiling) and the voice (positive words) but anything that says “Good on me!” is great.
3: Create some reminders to yourself
I make post-it notes with a stick person with her stick arms over head. Students of mine at The Writer’s Oasis write CELEBRATE in their writing file so it’s the first thing they see and the word gets pushed down as they write.
4: Don’t skip it just because you don’t feel like it
Most of the time you won’t because you’re accustomed to celebrating only if you think you did a good job. And you’re breaking that unhelpful loop. Celebrating is NOT about how you did or what outcome you produced, EVER. It is about doing what you said you would do.
I hope you find this practice as positive and cheering as I have and the writers and creatives I work with.
Jen (who just celebrated finishing this article!)
PS – I’ve just made a gift for you that I think you’ll adore! It has everything to do with building a practice into your life that celebrates how far you’ve come and where you’re headed. It’s called The Writer’s Oasis Organizer.
These pages are designed to help you – week after week – align your actions and choices more of the time with what’s most important to you. Click through and grab your copy here: https://jenniferlouden.com/writersorganizer.