“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out.”  – Robert Collier

Yesterday, I received a text from my lovely wife, Sally, celebrating the 27th anniversary of our first date.  All the maudlin cliches of time’s passing aside, I was quite struck by the length of time and her simple effort to acknowledge it. We took a moment to celebrate this milestone and the day went on with little fanfare.

This morning, I woke with thoughts of that text and was reminded of the importance of celebrating success, even the small versions.  I am truly guilty of falling short in this area.  With an eye toward a never-ending series of objectives, success has always seemed to be a destination at which I never completely arrive.  When I hit a milestone, my first reaction is often: Great! What’s next? Considering the length and breadth of a lifetime, this is a terribly one-dimensional way to approach the series of wins inherent in any one person’s life.

A better paradigm is the notion of success as a journey.  A collection of moments that comprise your perpetual evolution until that final arrival.  With this model in mind, it becomes essential to acknowledge and celebrate those smaller wins that make up the fabric of your overall journey.  Many of us do well at celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and retirements which are certainly success milestones.  However, these events are the easily identifiable rights of passage within a life.  What are you doing to celebrate small daily, weekly, or monthly wins that constitute the necessary steps within a long journey?  It is so very easy to move past them.  Take them for granted. Completely miss them.

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman

This is an acute challenge within the world of work.  It is hard to look at the small wins as success because they are never enough.  Hooray! We won a deal, now we’re only a million dollars away from our goal!  Good for me!  I was promoted and now I might be able to get the job I really want in five years.  When we place the small wins next to our broader ambitions, they always seem so insignificant. Why?  Because if we are aiming high, almost every milestone is a small win.

The objective is not to eliminate ambition or aspiration (though we may want to redefine it), but to acknowledge that any success we achieve is an ongoing, organic process that ebbs and flows within our lifetime.  We may achieve specific objectives, but success will mostly be seen in the rear-view mirror and measured in relative terms.  It is a collection not a singularity.

So the challenge becomes taking a moment to acknowledge the wins, no matter how minor.  Sending a text to congratulate a friend on a small victory. Writing an email placing the tiniest of value on the teeniest bit of progress.  Just because. Hand writing a note saying “Thank You”. Taking a breath and reminding yourself that you are making progress no matter how futile it may feel and that each day presents some kind of win whether or not it shows up on a scoreboard, spreadsheet, or headline.

And if for some reason you fear that you may over-celebrate bits of nothing and devalue true wins, then I challenge you to over-celebrate a little to see where it leads.  I suspect you’ll find that your true win is recognizing a successful life that already exists.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”  – Oprah Winfrey