Celebrate Early and Often

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself.” – Walt Witman

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” – Tom Peters

I work with high achieving leaders and I am always astounded at the pattern that I see.  These highly focused, brilliant people have achieved phenomenal accolades and outward success.  Equipped to face any obstacle and open to criticism, I find the greatest challenge occurs when I ask them to celebrate what they’ve already done.  As they have continuously driven themselves to do more, be more, and get more, they have failed to notice the success all around them.  They come to me feeling a sense of emptiness or lack of fulfillment and can’t figure out why.  

Dan was a perfect example of this insatiable appetite fore more.  A senior partner at a top Canadian law firm, for years he had had a singular focus on the next deal, the next promotion, or the next big goal.  While his hunger and competitive spirit was what brought him his success, he was getting increasingly burnt out, bitter and disillusioned.  I worked with Dan on stepping off the treadmill for a moment to take stock of where he was.

Dan began to take a few minutes before bed to reflect on what he had accomplished that day.  On his morning runs, he thought of five things he was grateful for in his life.  Finally, after he closed his next big deal, I challenged him to take a moment to celebrate the success he had worked so hard to achieve.  I insisted that the celebration be something decadent, that he wouldn’t have allowed himself to do otherwise.  After some thought, he came up with the plan to take a three day weekend and kayak through Algonquin Park.  To deepen the experience, he agreed to use the trip to reflect on his recent success and savour the moment while it lasted.  

After doing some significant work on celebrating his successes, Dan noticed a new pattern emerging in his life.  He found that he had a newfound passion and energy for the work he was doing.  He was feeling fulfilled and engaged and felt that he was working towards meaningful goals, not simply running from a fear of inadequacy or failure.  He was better able to focus at work, manage his team and was a more positive person all around.  

Take some time to savour all the hard work that you have done.  Look back on where you were five years ago and celebrate how far you’ve come.  Maybe you’ve been promoted at work, found a life partner, lost some weight or run your first marathon.  Maybe you’ve developed a yoga practice that keeps you grounded and calm.  Maybe you’ve become a really good friend or son or daughter as you’ve gotten older.  Maybe you have newfound wisdom that helps you to keep things in perspective and get more out of life.  Whatever the success you have achieved, take notice and pat yourself on the back.  

The next time you find yourself frantically racing towards your next goal, stop what you’re doing.  Turn around and look at all that you have already achieved and celebrate.  After catching your breath and soaking it all in, you will be even better prepared to move on to the next big thing.  In the process of savouring your successes along the way, you will find your life feels much richer and more fulfilling.  Celebration is one of the most powerful ways to ignite your life.