Friday, August 13, 2010

Small Victories Upon Small Victories

We tend to want big victories. We set big goals and celebrate big milestones.

I think this can be a mistake. There are plenty of small victories which deserve recognition.

For instance, I've been organizing my house for two weeks now. The first few days were triage. We pulled all of the chaos out into the open and we set up a triage system where we gathered it into piles by type. We needed to see just how bad each category of paper was--for instance each of my groups which I volunteer with got its own pile. Some of these were quite huge, others small. None of these papers had a good home so things had been out of control for awhile. As I've stated at least twice in the past two weeks, the mess this system caused was extensive. We had stacks of papers everywhere where before some of it hadn't looked as bad; now it looked horrible. It felt like I had made things worse.

For the past two days, I've been working hard on various stacks, and I'm celebrating a small victory--the reduction of the piles! There are 40% fewer piles than a few days ago.

I'm not done, of course, but it seemed important to me to recognize my progress.

Too often, I think, people only look at the failure side of things. I had been thinking how bad the house looked right now. I am still less than half way finished. That sounded awful to me. Then I realized. I did 4.5 stacks yesterday. When you compare where I was when I started, I'm about 40% finished sorting and finding homes for what we are keeping (we are recycling a lot of paper--the blue can was full when it went out this morning!).

I'm not suggesting that, as a society, we need to go down the path that leads to celebrating every little victory. I think some places have gone too far, with huge parties for kindergarten graduations, trophies for participation instead of winning, and "everybody is a winner" attitudes. I'm not suggesting that at all. Don't celebrate false victories, but it can be important to acknowledge what we have done. It is not a failure to be 40% done with my organizing project. As long as I don't leave it at this stage, that is a great milestone I can be proud to reach. It can encourage me to keep going, knowing that I am getting there (slowly, yes, but getting there).

Sometimes it is important to celebrate the intermediate steps to victory in order to keep morale up enough to reach the end goal. If anything less than total victory is the only thing worthy of celebrating, we can too often feel depressed on the journey--feeling like a failure all the way until we reach the end. The journey should be as uplifting as the success at the end or the journey won't be worth doing.

1 comment:

  1. :) agreed - wise thoughts. Especially in big projects which will hit messy patches, it's important to take time to appreciate that progress is still happening.


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