Amanda Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Practitioner

Do you focus more on your disappointments as opposed to your successes? If so, you’re not alone. Many people can quickly recall times when they were unsuccessful. Yet when asked about their successes, they struggle to identify any, or they minimize them.

I had a client who experienced anxiety while taking public transportation. He told me that he had a panic attack in the past week and he was frustrated with his lack of progress in therapy. I reminded him that just a month earlier, he was experiencing an average of six panic attacks a week. He appeared shocked and replied: “I forgot. I’m just focused on the fact that I had the one.” This client was struggling to identify the success he’d had, which made it appear to him that he wasn’t progressing at all. Over time, he became better able to identify and celebrate his incremental successes, which improved his mood and motivation.

Failure to acknowledge and celebrate the times when we succeed can be detrimental. It can lead to emotional disturbances, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and apathy, to name a few. It can also cause us to give up due to a lack of motivation. My client was considering stopping therapy because he had one panic attack—because he didn’t realize that he was actually experiencing significant success.

So how do you celebrate your successes? Consider trying these methods:

1) Identify small successes. You might be able to recognize and celebrate big landmark successes, yet your smaller successes may go unnoticed, even though they are often the foundation of larger accomplishments. If they aren’t acknowledged, these small steps might not lead to the bigger successes that you seek. Here are some examples of small successes that are worth celebrating: going to work every day when you want to call in sick, paying your bills on time, cleaning your living space, organizing your office space, going to the doctor. These might seem like basic things that every adult needs to do, but not every adult does or is capable of these accomplishments. Try this: Identify positive things that you did today. Congratulate yourself on what you achieved and allow yourself to take credit. The encouragement may make it easier for you to continue your small successes, which can lead to larger accomplishments.

2) Embrace the physical feeling of success. When you are able to identify a success of any size, take a moment and notice where you feel it in your body. Do you feel a warm sensation in your chest? Is there a light feeling in your shoulders? Once you notice the feeling in your body, sit with it. Allow your body to experience or re-experience this sensation for 5-10 minutes. Your body remembers sensations, and if you can tune into these good feelings, you might have an easier time repeating or expanding upon your successes in the future.

3) Give yourself incentives. I once had a client who struggled to go to work because of fatigue and a lack of motivation. This client created an incentive for herself: If she went to work 90 percent of the time, in three months, she would plan a vacation. She made an extra effort and achieved her goal, and she enjoyed a trip to Canada with her family. You can celebrate your own success with a vacation, an experience, material items, or anything that you feel would be motivating.

4) Tell someone. Share each small success with someone special in your life. This provides an opportunity for you to receive validation and encouragement. Also, your support system can help motivate you to continue your success.

Do you struggle to celebrate your success? If so, you may benefit from participating in counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990 to schedule an appointment.