(I first wrote this post for Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling, a blog for women in business. You can check it out here.)
As a creative, driven person, I used to just work and work an work.
When one list was done, I had another one started. I finished one training, and headed into the next. No biggie, I told myself. Time to move forward.
That may sound like someone who’s being productive. But actually, in terms of growth -and forming new brain pathways- it can keep us trapped in stasis.
What I’ve learned is that so much (good!) happens in the space between endings and beginnings. Skipping over our achievement wipes away our opportunity to fill up on positive emotion, satisfaction, and self-recognition…all of which are important aspects of change.
I’m not talking about ego-boosting or gloating.
I’m talking about celebrating, marking change in our consciousness, in order to grow. It’s the act of stopping to acknowledge what we’ve just done and what it took to do it, with honest appraisal and appreciation.
Why do this?
Stopping to become fully aware of what we’ve achieved (and who we are now, because of it) is our shot at making change more permanent.
Being in that awareness, and letting your positive experiences resonate inside you (the way you would savor a delicious bite of food) is like nutrition for your brain. It’s essential to integrating new qualities, skills, thoughts and behaviors.
Let me tell you a story.
I once did a ropes course with a group. About seven of us gathered around this telephone pole with pegs on the side. As we looked up, we learned that we were supposed to get to the top of that pole and stand up on it with two feet. There was nothing to grab onto besides the pole itself. No tree limbs, no ropes, no other poles.
Standing at the foot of the pole and looking up, all of our fears and self-limiting beliefs came flooding out.
Palms sweated. People went to pee.
We were sure of all the things that would hold us back. We weren’t strong enough. Or we were too big, or too small. Or we had terrible balance. We didn’t have the skills. We thought we might fall and die. We might throw up from fear.
Never mind the safety harnesses. Our minds were fast at work, creating everything we were afraid of and believing it.
But we each broke new ground, traveling up the pole farther than we imagined we would. Many of us learned that we were strong enough, we had plenty of balance, and our size didn’t matter. It didn’t take the skill we thought it did.
Once we got up there, we had the courage to try to stand up.
That activity rewrote our self-definition, in subtle and dramatic ways. We could no longer honestly believe that we weren’t courageous enough or that we weren’t strong or skilled enough, or that we were too big or too small.
Because we’d pretty much proved ourselves wrong.
Even the people who chose to climb down rather than take that last step broke through a personal barrier. Everyone had something to celebrate.
We were flooded with energy, amazement, joy.
We had discovered who we really were. When it came to how we thought of ourselves, we had some changing to do. We had amazing inner resources to claim as ours.
And when one of us forgot about our resources and fell back into fear, another would bring up that day with the pole. It takes reminding. Old beliefs die hard.
Imagine if we had just said “cool!” and moved to the next activity without reflecting on what had happened, or celebrating what we had done. We would have missed our opportunity to re-wire our brains for strength and triumph, and we may not have integrated what we learned into how we define ourselves.
We would have gone back to the same old story.
It’s our responsibility to slow down, let the changes in, and own our new capacity, once we finally break through a barrier. It takes openness and courage to do this.
This is how we grow. This is how we change our self-image and identity.
We accept positive change, even when it’s hard to believe.
The point is, above anyone else’s opinions, you get to say who you are and what you’re capable of.
Not only is this true for you as individuals, but it’s true for teams, too. It’s a great idea to run through the process of marking positive change with your team after a significant achievement.
Slow down as a group and take a closer look:
What qualities showed up that make you proud?
Where did you surprise yourselves?
What do you appreciate most about your team?
What worked? What did you learn?
What do you now know you can expect of you as a team?
What challenge do you want to overcome next?
In what ways are you not the team you used to be? How are you new?
Answering these questions together can help you form- and keep- a whole new team identity.
Do begin the habit of integrating your changes through the process of celebrating. It’s not just productive. It’s so much fun!
Celebrating is how we nourish new behaviors, new skills, and new identities that are just forming. We reflect, build awareness and stop to take in what it’s like to be new.
You know what’s next….
What do you have to celebrate?
What challenge have you recently faced?
What do you appreciate about what it took for you to face it?
Now soak in your appreciation: what’s wonderful about that?
What qualities did you show, or what did you learn that you’re most proud of?
Where did you surprise yourself?
How have you changed? What’s new about you?
Time to collectively celebrate! Share your most recent win in the comments, or use this article as a discussion tool for your team.
I help people who are stuck in the wrong job find their true purpose and make a life from it, so they can finally enjoy satisfaction and success. I believe every outlier has a purpose, and it's not to fit in- it's to elevate the status quo. I discuss things like: the truth about how change really happens, common traps we create for ourselves (and how to eliminate them), how to own your emotions and leverage them as a leadership tools, and stories of regular people leading from their hearts and experiencing success.
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