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  • Cory McGowan

Note to self: Celebrate!

It happened again this morning.


I was about to jump on a call with an executive in the US to interview him for a 360 leadership assessment for the COO of a very quickly growing and exciting startup. Then it hit me: here I am doing a new project internationally, part of a clear intention I set for my business over 18 months ago that is coming to fruition, and I hadn’t even celebrated getting that contract.


In the work I do with leaders and other coaches, I have heard this come up a lot - “I’m not very good at celebrating my wins.” I actually had a session with a CEO just the other day - someone who is brilliant, experienced, creative, and very driven who had knocked out a six month project plan well ahead of when he had committed to do it. And the plan was noticeably missing any rewards for hitting milestones along the way to the big outcomes. He accepted my invitation to add that, and openly shared that it was more challenging for him than putting together the whole project plan.


When I started witnessing this in others I initially jumped to judgement, thinking how silly it is that people wouldn’t celebrate their wins, small or big. Then I started to notice that it was coming up for me as well, once again proving that damn truism: You spot it you got it. (This means that the things you notice in others - things that you find frustrating, annoying, beautiful, awe inducing - are a reflection of you as well, which is why you notice them.)

What is hard about celebrating? I can’t speak for others, but here are some of the stories that come up for me:


It takes time. We tend to put a high value on productivity and progress, and particularly as leaders/high achievers, time spent well is time that moves you forward. It can feel a lot more natural to just jump into doing what needs to be done on a new project rather than pausing to feel great about the fact that you are getting to do it.


It is indulgent. Again, as driven achievers and leaders there can be a little niggle of not wanting to celebrate a small win because you haven’t actually hit your big goal yet, gotten stability in your business, still have so much to do, blah, blah, blah. And the standard for what to celebrate can just continue balloon out of reach.


It is vulnerable. There can be a bit of a stoic mentality in business - setting aside emotions as not being appropriate for being a professional and leader. Being willing to open to the joy of celebrating will will likely mean also being open to being with the heartbreak of when you don’t reach your achievements - who wants that?! Steady on.


In this time of transition in the world, when it seems we could be swallowed up at any moment by the dark and uncontrollable events around us, creating pockets of light of our own celebrations is critical. And what better season than spring (excuse the northern hemisphere bias) to do this, as we see life reawaken after a cold and frozen winter?!

I'm celebrating these beautiful tiny flowers that came up in our yard that was covered in snow just days ago!


Some things you may want to try to build your celebration muscle:

  • Write a list of achievements. My coach had me do this recently, and while I did a bit of an internal eye roll initially (see the above comments about why I don’t celebrate enough…), it was actually pretty damn cool to see the wins I have had over the past six months, especially since I opened it up to everything in my life, not just my work.

  • Find a celebration ally. It may seem counterintuitive to find an ally for something that should be fun and easy to do, but if you’re not doing it, why not get supported? Set up a commitment where you will share in a celebration big or small at least once a week. If you have a coach, they are already likely fulfilling this role for you, and if you are not being supported by a coach, well, you can guess my feelings on that :)

  • Tag rewards to your mini achievements and invite your team members to do the same. If you have a plan with milestones that will get you to your big goal, think of a fun and motivating reward for hitting each milestone - however inconsequential each of these rewards may seem, it will be a great way to set you up for practicing more celebration. This has been one of my many takeaways from participating in The Forge, and am supporting all of my clients in doing it as well as doing it myself.

Got something you have realized you want to celebrate thanks to reading this? Let me know, I want to hear about it!

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