A friend of mine was raised to believe that celebrating her accomplishments was “bad” because it showed a lack of humility and “teamwork.” It appeared boastful and self-centered. To this day, she has a hard time owning her wins at work and in her personal life and truly celebrating. But it is so important to celebrate wins and to celebrate yourself, and to recognize your hard work and accomplishments.

I am a big fan of research, and it clearly shows that “Celebrating small wins stimulates dopamine release in the brain, a feel-good chemical that reinforces the learning experience and strengthens our sense of connection to those we work with.” It’s basic psychology. Celebrating yourself after a small win actually increases your desire to work harder, set goals, keep a positive mindset and rise to new challenges.

I talk a lot about having a solid plan. That’s because a plan does more than help you map out your future; it helps keep you looking forward and on track. And we could all use that kind of motivation from time to time, right? So often, when we are moving right along, we forget to celebrate wins – big and small. In fact, I would invite you to add celebrating to your personal and wins to your plan!

Beyond the sheet cake

We’ve all been part of a group that huddles around a store-bought cake, tunelessly singing happy birthday to an officemate. While a birthday or anniversary is absolutely a reason for fun, it’s not the only time to celebrate. Embed celebrations and recognitions into every plan – sales plans, professional development plans, retirement plans, process improvement plans, training plans…  you get the idea. Celebrate when you start, as you reach milestones and when you finish. Do not delay celebration.

Think outside of that proverbial sheet cake box too! Take some PTO, buy a new outfit, go to dinner, throw yourself a party, buy a book, go to a fun event, or send a mass text to your cheerleaders. Recognition not only increases your dopamine, but it also increases accountability! Tell your core group of fans what you want to accomplish. And your advocates will not only cheer you on, but they will also check in on your progress.

Celebrating can also be small, private self-satisfaction exercises too. It can be as little as changing your email signature, decorating your desk or sending a thank you note to your mentor or someone else that helped you along the way. It’s all about acknowledging yourself and recognizing the “moments” that move you.

Who you are

Remember my friend who has a hard time celebrating herself? She is part of the “do more, work more” generation. That mindset certainly has its merits, but what it lacks is humanity! We are not robots. We are people with our own personal lives, hopes and dreams. It’s what makes up our personal brands. Celebrating should be part of your brand – for you and others. Seeing the large and small wins in others’ lives makes people gravitate toward you. Seeing accomplishments in everyday life is an attractive quality.

I have another friend who is saving up to buy his first home. That’s no small feat! So while he’s focused on saving, he also takes a moment to celebrate. For every $5k he socks away, he gives himself a ‘goof off’ afternoon, which means he takes half a day to reward himself…some days, he plays tennis, and some days he sits by the pool. By doing that, he not only gets a reward but also focuses even harder on his endgame to get another mid-goal reward.

I have another friend who is investing in herself and working on earning more credentials in her field. She sends herself flowers when she reaches a milestone. It’s something bright and wonderful to come home to. Another friend has a mini-bucket list of things she’s always wanted to do in her home state, so with each accomplishment, she checks off a wine tour, a challenging hike, a camping trip, or a souvenir from a national park. Those are celebrations that mean something to her.

‘Tis celebration season

Many celebratory events are coming up: Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and Fourth of July… you really don’t have an excuse not to have a piece of that celebratory cake for yourself! For me, I’ll be celebrating the warm evenings of summer. It’s the little things that make up the big things. Celebrate the honor of having someone ask you for advice – it means you’re a trusted advisor. Celebrate when you receive a compliment. Celebrate leaving your comfort zone – even in small ways – like sharing an idea in a meeting, being a self-advocate or being assertive. Celebrate when someone thanks you and when you help others.

These are all excellent moments to pause and genuinely applaud the person you are and are becoming!