13 Steps to Celebrate Small Wins with Your Goals

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If you live a focused life, you probably set yourself goals—I know I do. Goals help you achieve more, cultivate success, and streamline life so you have less to worry about

But have you been doing the other side of goal-setting, which is to celebrate small wins?

Oh, sure, you will probably spoil yourself with a night off or a lavish dinner if you reach a major milestone goal, but what about those little goals and celebrating those? 

Celebrating small wins is what helps us to achieve the next goal. If you never celebrate, there is no reward, and aside from the success of completing a goal, there is no gain from that goal, which seriously kills your motivation

I sometimes think of motivation like a small child. If you don’t celebrate small wins, your “child” will pout and refuse to cooperate next time.

So here are a few great insights into goal celebration and how you can do this to keep up your motivation levels.

What Are Small Wins and Why Do These Matter?

Small wins are when you set micro goals or steppingstones toward bigger goals, which you need to reach in order to succeed at a much bigger goal. It’s when you do something that helps you move forward toward something you want to ultimately achieve.

An example of this would be if you set small steps like calling a company about a job offer, then getting an interview, followed by getting the right wardrobe for the interview, preparing for the interview, and finally attending the interview and successfully getting the job.

You may also have slightly bigger steps, like finishing school, completing a college degree, getting work experience, working a part-time job to earn credits with the company you ultimately want to work with, and finally being hired full time and promoted to the leadership position you crave. 

Small wins may also mean you set goals relevant to your current state in life. Perhaps you are suffering from depression, so your mini goals may be to get out of bed, get dressed, put on some makeup or shave, have a nutritious breakfast, take a walk, and get to work on time. 

Celebrating these small wins means you reward your bruised self for doing whatever it can to recover and heal, and this is really important to your successful rehabilitation from depression. 

The goal-setting process is one of goal-achieve-reward-repeat, and it’s sometimes difficult to stick to a habit when there are no rewards in the interim between the goal and its outcome.

Using celebration of micro-goals helps the process by sprinkling rewards and gratification that help you stay focused on the goal.

When Should You Celebrate Small Wins?

Celebrating small wins should happen as soon as the win has been achieved according to a 2017 study.

This means less time is lost, and delayed gratification can lead to a loss of motivation. So, choose a manageable celebration or reward for the win, something you can do or have as soon as you have succeeded in your small win. 

A great example of this is to sit and enjoy your favorite song in your car before work when you make it there on time. This sets the tone for a great day, while celebrating the win in a meaningful way. 

A note of warning: Don’t fall into the money or food trap when you plan your win celebrations.

While it’s easy to buy chocolate or takeout as a celebration for a small win, this is less meaningful and has too many other risks, such as overeating, health risks, and more. Shopping is also not always a great idea as this can lead you to only wanting to do things when there’s a monetary reward (negating the idea of intrinsic reward).

How You Can Celebrate Small Wins

So how can you celebrate small wins? Is there a specific formula for creating the perfect celebration for a small win? 

small wins lead to big wins | celebrate your small wins quotes | celebrating small wins caption
You can celebrate small wins by treating yourself to a small reward, like your favorite snack or taking a short break to do something you enjoy.

What you see as a celebration may not be a celebration to me, so this is a highly personal and specific thing for each of us. 

As a guide to deciding on how to celebrate small wins, I’d suggest the following considerations:

  • The size of the celebration or reward should match the win.
  • The celebration should meet your own needs for validation and reward.
  • Appreciate the progress you’ve made and keep track of this with journal entries and celebrations to reward yourself. This is also a great way to ensure you don’t always go for the same reward.
  • Celebrate in a novel way that you will enjoy.
  • Choose celebrations that don’t require large amounts of energy to enjoy.
  • Select a celebration that makes you feel great.

13 Ways to Celebrate Small Wins with Your Goals

There are so many ideas to celebrate, but the different types of rewards I use to celebrate may not appeal to you, so I’ll rather explain the different ways to choose your celebrations

These celebration ways are open, and you can find what works with each way to suit your tastes.

1. Engage in a Self-Care Activity Immediately After the Successful Completion of a Task or Goal

A self-care activity such as taking time to breathe, closing your eyes for five minutes after a strenuous task, or stretching after a difficult work session can help you really appreciate and celebrate each new win

2. Vocalize and Use Affirmations to Validate Your Progress and Celebrate the Task

When you succeed at a small win, it’s important to use your voice to celebrate too. Saying aloud that you’re doing well, you have achieved a mini-goal, and you are proud of your achievement is important to immediate intrinsic celebration. 

3. Being Proud of Your Success, You Can Share Your Success Stories

Celebrate with others by sharing your success story to help each other appreciate your small wins. When you celebrate your small wins, sharing them with others doubles the pleasure and happiness. 

4. Repeatedly Celebrate Each Small Win to Build Better Habits and Succeed

A sure-fire way to build better goal-setting habits is to have a small celebration or reward ready for each win. No matter how small, you are worthy of celebrating that win. Celebration builds the habit of goal-setting and goal-achieving. 

5. Give to Others When You Get Rewards or Success

Celebration can also take the form of works of gratuity. There is joy in giving, so why not share your wins with others with acts of kindness or charity? 

psychology of small wins | celebrate small wins | small wins are still wins
Celebration can also take the form of works of gratuity.

6. Give Yourself a Gift

To achieve a major goal, you need to win with the small bits that lead up to it. You can reward yourself and celebrate each small win as you build up to the final goal. 

Maybe you can choose a reward system that reflects the goal, so if you want to save enough to buy a house, you can save and then allow yourself five minutes to browse online for new home decorations.

7. Feed Your Senses 

A celebration can also feed your senses when you celebrate with a trip to the zoo or a day in the local gallery district. Attend a rock concert or participate in a podcast online as soon as you have succeeded in winning. 

8. Surprise Rewards After Each Small Win

As a kid, one of our favorite things we get is a lucky packet, and this is because our brains love mystery and surprise. Make your own lucky packet that you can fish in for a celebration idea

Perhaps the packet is filled with vouchers, sweets, a mantra to remind you how amazing you are, and more. You may treat this lucky packet of rewards like a journal prompt jar where there are ideas to write about each day, except you reward yourself for small wins each time. 

9. Celebrate Wins with Nature

Nature offers so many ways to celebrate, and you can instantly access these online or in nature if you are fortunate enough to be near a natural wonder or beautiful place

Celebrate by watching videos about baby animals for five minutes after each small win. The novel wins and their celebrations will gain momentum, fueling your desire to succeed in all things.

10. Food Rewards for Wins

While food rewards can become bribery and not an actual celebration, this is an age-old way to celebrate when we succeed at something. Food celebrations can backfire (pun intended), but you can choose to use foods that are healthy as a reward or celebration snack. 

small wins examples | small win or small wins | small wins candy
Food celebrations can have negative consequences, but you have the option to select healthy foods as a reward or celebratory snack instead.

Consider healthy treats like fruit bars and nuts instead of unhealthy options. Even having a cup of sweet tea after completing a proposal document can be a great reward

Using the ritual of cooking or preparing healthy food is a great way to celebrate small wins. I like taking a lunch box packed with a healthy bran taco and many different natural and low-GI fillings that I can then load to create my own feast to celebrate a morning of small wins at work.

11. Celebrate Small Wins with Friends

Magic is best when shared, and when you achieve a small win, it may be best to share the celebration with friends or family—the people close to your heart. Try getting into the habit of sending a short message when you have a small win to a friend or dear one, achieving validation in yourself and in their response. 

If you have a colleague who is close to you, you may decide to invite them to a quick tea break after nailing an important business contract or even because you managed to clear your desk of yesterday’s overflow work. 

12. Reward with Free Stuff

Money and spending money can cause stress and end up not being a reward at all, but you can celebrate small wins without spending a cent. Consider signing up for a free subscription to a coloring book (or coloring page) or journaling prompt service. 

Other free rewards may include borrowing a book from your local library to read as a reward after small wins, going to a community theater to support the local arts, and even taking a walk in a park to decompress after surviving a stressful meeting.

13. Analyze a Win and Self-Congratulate

When you experience a small win, it’s important to reflect on that win, how you achieved it, and what you learned along the journey to victory. Perhaps you learned to get up five minutes earlier to make it to work on time, which you can then use to ensure you are never late and avoid the stress of being late

Self-congratulating is important, and instead of it being a case of narcissism, this is about acknowledging your effort and meaning. We often wait for others to validate our wins, when we should validate those ourselves. 

Tell yourself aloud that you did a good job, and like the vocalizing above, keep a record of your wins so you can reflect on these when you feel run down and like a failure. 

Final Thoughts on How to Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrating each small win is how you craft the momentum that will push you through difficult times towards victory. It’s not about the final destination, but about the steps you take to get there. 

Celebrating those steps acknowledges that you are moving forward… providing proof that you’re not just stuck in the quicksand of inertia. This in itself should help motivate you to keep going when the going gets tough. 

If you want more ideas on how to celebrate small wins, check out our guide to free rewards for yourself.

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.

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5 thoughts on “13 Steps to Celebrate Small Wins with Your Goals”

  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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