The key to positive change, especially in tough times, is to focus on progress - not just the final results. This is very much against the way our society is put together. We are achievement-oriented and we tend to discount the journey unless we get the results we set out to achieve. So, why would anyone devoted to high results care to celebrate anything before the final touchdown?
High performance fuels high performance - and low performance fuels more low performance. It is just as difficult to escape the winning streak as it is to escape the losing streak. Essentially, performance tends to function, as if it were, along two spirals. One spiral leads down, the other leads up. Imagine it this way:
Imagine that you succeed at something. Maybe you deliver a job under budget, in less time than expected, with outstanding results. How do you feel? Good, right? What feedback are others likely to give you? Good, probably. How does good feedback make you feel? If you are like the rest of us, it probably makes you feel good, and it pushes you to do whatever you may have done to get it in the first place. In other words, your brain says: "I like this feeling! Repeat to get more of this!"
Does this lead to a more excited, positive attitude? Sure. Is someone with a positive attitude more likely to put their heart into their next task and, therefore, more likely to succeed at it? Absolutely. And there we go again: better performance leads to better feeling of self-esteem, which leads to better feedback, better feelings, better performance, etc. The spiral moves up and up and, even with a little regression here and there, the overall growth is nothing but positive.
How about the other spiral? The downward spiral is something that most of us can relate to from a bad job, a bad relationship, a bad habit that just won't go away, or anything that doesn't make us feel that great about ourselves. Let's take the "bad relationship". You feel criticized a little, you feel a little less close to your partner. You respond a little less, this fuels more criticism, and you feel even less close. And the spiral goes down and down, until there is little trust or love left over between both partners. Once things start to turn sour in a relationship, once health gets worse or a person goes broke, the toughest thing is to stop the spiral from going down. It is like trying to stop a speeding train with no brakes going down a steep mountain. The further down the mountain the train has gone, the more destructive power it has - and the more crucial it is to stop it as quickly as possible and, where possible, to shift the focus on even the smallest things that do work. Then, there is a hope of shifting from the negative spiral into the positive self-fulfilling prophecy.
In my research for an upcoming book about super-successful women with happy families has revealed one interesting pattern to me. As I have interviewed women and some of their husbands, I noticed that each of them had the highest praise for their spouses. The wife would credit her husband with her success, and the husband would say the same about his wife. No wonder these relationships work! Even with highly challenging careers and huge time pressures, the couples have learned to celebrate the good, rather than complain about the bad. Does that mean ignoring the bad? No. Not at all. It does mean focusing on what IS good, and also learning from the bad so that even the bad can be turned into something good.
If there are areas of your life or business that are already working well, great! Celebrate that. If there is an area where things are not working as well as you would like them to, assess if you might be in the "negative performance-negative feedback-negative feeling" cycle. If so, the first step might be to become aware of it. The second might be to remind yourself of any progress you have already made. If the path of progress includes "failures", what have you learned from them and how are you using those lessons now?
Celebrate anything, even if it seems small and insignificant. Do you have troubles with a tough boss? What is there to celebrate about that? The time you did stand up to him and got some respect from him? How about if you have money troubles? Can you feel good, in advance, about the creativity you will learn as you untangle yourself from the mess? Write a "gratitude" journal, if you wish: each night, write down 3 steps you took that day that took you closer to your goal. Write them down, irrespective of whether you are getting any different "results" yet. It will feel like a silly and uphill battle at first, but you will be surprised when the tide starts to turn. And, at the very least, it is far more pleasant to celebrate yourself to success than to whip and guilt yourself to it!
"Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing."
"Kites rise highest against the wind -- not with it."
Sir Winston Churchill
"If you can laugh at it, you can live with it."