Friday, July 23, 2010

You Win Because You Say So

How often do you find yourself completing something – no matter how challenging – to simply check it off your real or metaphoric to-do list with the thought: "Done. NEXT!”? When was the last time you took a moment to recognize and celebrate an accomplishment – not just the “big, hairy, audacious” ones? Americans in particular are really bad at this. We are always so “busy" running around trying to achieve and “win” (and avoid losing) that we neglect to notice that we are already winning constantly – all day, every day.

It is not just the marathon that is a win (which, itself may be a to-do list item) but the journey leading up to the race that contains a whole array of wins. This metaphor of marathon could represent a big goal or task, like raising a child, starting a business, or quitting smoking. Or it could be smaller, like dusting the living room, choosing a healthier meal option, or remembering to breathe. Each of these accomplishments is a win in and of itself. And each supporting task (and conscious choice leading up to that) is a win too. Not by some arbitrary list of criteria, but because we say so.

Let me say that again: it’s a win when you say it’s a win. It lives in your declaration, and it’s completely up to you (no one else) – if and when you want to recognize it as one. Let’s take a goal and break it down into a list of wins:

Goal: Run a marathon.
  • Making the decision to run. Win.
  • Registering for the marathon. Win.
  • Investigating and booking the travel to get there. Win.
  • Creating a training schedule. Win.
  • Blocking out time in the calendar to train. Win.
  • Getting out of bed at 5am, even though you’re tired. Win.
  • Running 2 miles. Win.
  • Eating more protein. Win.
  • Saying "no" to staying out late with your friends on Friday night so you can get up early to train. Win.
  • Running 13 miles. Win.
  • Running despite the weather. Win.
  • Drinking more water. Win.
  • Getting to the airport on time. Win.
  • Showing up at the marathon. Win.
  • Running the marathon. Win.
  • Celebrating your achievement. Win.
  • …and there are hundreds more…
The thing is: it doesn’t have to be a marathon. It can be practicing patience with traffic (win), or taking a bubble bath as an act of self-care (win), or choosing to return a challenging phone call when all you want to do is avoid the person (win), or getting your desk drawers organized to reduce clutter (win). You get to say whether it is a win.

This week: look for wins every day -- no matter how big or small.

The whole point in this is to practice being conscious and present, to notice how often you are achieving, and to be proud and grateful for all that you are capable of. It’s not just about crossing something off your list, but to recognize how much it took to get that thing crossed off – in who you’re being, the choices you make, the commitment and perseverance, and in the actions themselves.

Living your life to the fullest is a huge win, but the acts of getting out of bed and showing up are also wins.