Why Small Wins are a Powerful Way to Form Habits

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What are small wins?

Small wins are progress points on your way to your goal.

For example, say that your main goal is to get out of debt.

This can be a daunting and discouraging task because it involves a lot of moving parts.  Focusing on small wins helps you break down a large goal into manageable chunks.

You create a series of small wins in debt reduction like:

  • Consolidate your debt into a single credit card
  • Get under $20,000 in student debt, then $10,000, then $5,000, etc.
  • Pay off all of your credit cards.
  • Set up a savings account.

Each of these milestones is part of a larger goal, but they're chunked down manageable steps.  This makes it easier to stick to your plan.

Why Small Wins Help With Habit Development

Small wins help you feel like you're accomplishing something.  If we focus too much on the bigger goals, we’ll feel like we will never get there.  That’s why smaller wins are so important.  They give us the motivation to keep on going where it snowballs into the development of the bigger goals.

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Here are some examples of some small wins for daily habits.

Example #1: Get your dream job

For some people, it takes a long time to land that dream job.

Instead of focusing on this outcome, you'd create a series of small wins that move you towards this goal.

Here are a few habits you'd focus on to get your dream job:

  • Apply for a job even if it’s not exactly what you want.
  • Develop the daily habit of searching internet job boards.
  • Celebrate the times when you get called for an interview!
  • Consider it a “win” when you're offered a job – even if it's not what you want.

Small wins can help you with finding a dream job.  All you have to do is chunk down a large goal and build momentum as you complete each phase of the process.

Example #2: Achieving success in your business

Every entrepreneur has dreams of becoming successful.  Unfortunately, it doesn't happen overnight.  You need to work hard at this goal on a daily basis by setting effective daily goals that move your forward.

As an example, here are a few “small wins” that you should focus on to get ahead in starting your own business:

  • Receiving your first inquiry from a potential customer
  • Getting your first sale
  • Achieving your first income milestone ($1,000, $5,000, $10,000, etc.)
  • Getting your first client referral
  • Taking your first vacation

Once you get in the habit of celebrating these milestones, you will soon have a thriving business.

Example #3: Feeling better about your appearance

This could be considered a small goal but a goal no less. 

If you want to feel better about yourself, some small wins could be:

If you get in the daily habit of taking care of yourself like doing your hair, putting nail polish on, ironing your clothes, polishing your shoes and putting money aside for the small wins, you will soon start to make small wins to feeling better about your appearance.

Small wins may seem impossible to get to at first.  But once you reach that first one, the other ones will fall into place.  You will become more motivated and wins will keep on coming.

Small wins break complex goals into more manageable pieces to handle.  They are effective because they reduce stress and give you a daily action plan to follow.  If you develop good daily habits, you’ll be eventually on your way to celebrate many small wins.

For some inspiration, check out our favorite songs about winning to help you celebrate your small wins.

Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

5 thoughts on “Why Small Wins are a Powerful Way to Form Habits”

  1. Sometimes the small wins can be a goal by itself. I’m trying to overcome my shyness by talking with a stranger once a day. It’s not so easy for a shy guy! When I started I succedeed maybe once a week. Now, 8 months later, it is about every second day. Some day I wil overcome my shyness AND I’ll have additional advantage – developed communication skills.
    Each time I talk with a stranger I celebrate as I hit some major goal 😉

  2. It’s funny how small wins don’t really get the street cred they deserve. We want our big goals and we want them now, but we won’t put aside a little bit of time each day to take the small steps in order to make them happen.

    • Agreed, it is quite funny, specifically since the best (really only) way to effectively reach those big goals is to build it on the back of a lot of small wins. Perhaps it is because this points out that it is hard work and a process… which many people do not want. Thanks for a great comment.

  3. Get a new wardrobe may be a small step for a male – update shirts, get decent shoes, ditch the ripped t-shirt, etc. – but huge for a female. I started with examining each item and keeping only things that made me smile. The one blouse I wanted to keep but had to give up because it no longer (let’s be honest, it never) fit well. I wrote down what attracted me to the blouse and decide to look for those characteristcs rather than buying stuff because it’s on sale.

  4. Yes! Esteemed psychologist Albert Ellis called the Small Wins strategy “The Bits-and-Pieces Approach”, Harvard instructor Tal Ben-Shahar said that this method is the single most important technique to emerge from research on procrastination, and Stanford researcher B.J. Fogg has built an entire system based on it, which he calls Tiny Habits.

    There’s now a free iPhone app for this system called “Mini Steps: End Procrastination, Build Good Habits” ( tinyurl.com/MiniStepsApp ).

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