We have an achievement-compulsive-disorder epidemic on our hands.
“When I get _______ then I’ll celebrate.”
“When I get ______ then I’ll be happy.”
As a society, how many times have we collectively thought this? More digits than pi.
“I’m just goal orientated. I’m driven, I want to meet my full potential, & I don’t have the time to slow down and smell the flowers.”
That sentiment sounds good, but can slide into dangerous territory very quickly, specifically when:
1) I put fulfillment on-hold until said achievement is obtained.
2) I get the achievement, and I immediately move the goal post.
“Of course you have to move the goal post. You clearly don’t understand what it takes to get ahead.”
On the contrary. It’s my biography.
I’ve always been attracted to high-achievers, both romantically and platonically. The go-getter. The active, assertive, ‘on-it’ type. Growing up, my parents were high-achievers. Groneks never quit. They were hard-working and dedicated. While they went after what they wanted, they always took time to celebrate milestones — their own and that of others. We were pretty poor, but my parents took the time and resources to acknowledge birthdays, graduations, job offers, promotions. I remember celebrating very specific things like getting a big part in the school play and my first literary publication. My home life was far from perfect, but this element was spot on — holding achievement & celebration hand in hand. We took time to pause and commemorate the achievement. We took time to stand in awe of the person who achieved it.
The more I live and encounter others, the more I see this is not the norm. High-achievers struggle with taking a moment to celebrate before moving on to the ‘next big thing.’ Those Jones’ aren’t going to keep up with themselves.
I’ve tried (without success) to get celebration-resisters to observe little victories. This feels a lot like trying to convince a 5-year-old who wants gummy bears that he actually wants broccoli instead — a fruitless endeavor. High achievers often object: “If I celebrate little things, I’ll get lazy and complacent.” They posit that taking a moment to celebrate will decrease their drive. To which I respond literally every institution disagrees with you. Employers give their employees paid time off, communicating that time to reflect, unwind, and celebrate with loved ones is important. Restaurants give space between courses to revel in the dish that came before. Organized religions celebrate holy days (holidays) as a time to connect with each other and the divine. I could give countless other reasons, but have come to realize that logically trying to convince a celebration-resister is not effective. Much like motivation, the desire to celebrate must come from within.
Every high-achiever must get to this place in their own growth first: success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. Failure isn’t falling short of what you wanted, it’s getting what you wanted and still not being satisfied. That’s the real tragedy. Only when we value fulfillment as much as success will we start to see the value of celebrating.
I’m beginning to see your point. How do I change my ways?
1. Think small.
Get good at mini-celebrations. Don’t think big scale (like graduations or career change). Those events happen too infrequently to form a celebratory habit. Think smaller.
2. Have the chocolate cake.
Celebrating the small things should be a daily exercise. There’s a terrific bakery down the street, of which I am a regular patron. First name basis, thank you 💁. I buy a slice of chocolate cake (practically) every day. The guy behind the counter, Wess, always gives me that puzzled you eat so much cake for such a small person look. After a full day of leaving it all on the field, coming home to a slice of cake and a glass of pinor noir is a ritual I look forward to it. It’s my way of celebrating my efforts on a regular basis. Chocolate cake might not be your thing (having trouble believing such people exist), but it’s important to find other small ways of celebrating every day.
3. Write it down.
I have a Win Jar on my kitchen counter. Whenever I have a small victory, I write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. A risk I took. A moment of vulnerability. A world-series-level date. A favorable outcome resulting from good choices. Right around New Years Eve, I open each piece of paper and read it. It’s a precious ritual: a moment to reflect on how I’ve grown over the year, as well as a time to get excited about all that the new year holds. This is the thing high-achievers often miss — celebration is a terrific motivator.
4. Choose the pompoms.
Relationships are a choice and we need to choose cheerleaders. I’ve learned that the ability to celebrate is a non-negotiable when it comes to selecting those who have access to me and my life. When you achieve something, big or small, you want those in your inner circle to say something along the lines of ‘That’s incredible! Let’s celebrate. Thursday. You. Me. Happy Hour.’ These types of people are relational goldmines — precious, rare, and abundant. Willingness to celebrate victories communicates not just that you see the work that went into the achievement, but that you see who I became in the process. These are the kind of people you want to hold onto. They will bring you from one degree of glory to the next.
So, come join me. Think small. Have the chocolate cake. Write it down. Choose the pompoms.
It’s time we embraced a celebratory spirit.
It’s time we moved toward contentment.
It’s time our outward success matched our inward fulfillment.
It’s time to celebrate this article I just wrote. I’m going to grab a slice of cake. Question is, will you be joining me?
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