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Are you too busy to celebrate?

It's easy to focus on the mountain of work the lies ahead and yet research shows that celebrating achievements creates the fuel needed to keep going.

The other day, a friend reminded me I’d forgotten to do something very important. I’d just spent 2 years working to achieve a personal goal and had finally achieved it. Having shared this with my friend, she responded, “Wow, that’s incredible! You must have had a huge celebration.” I looked at her, a little embarrassed, and told her I hadn’t really had time to celebrate. There was still so much to do, and while it was an achievement, the job wasn’t done until everything else was completed. Once the whole job was finished, I’d do something to celebrate properly.

How often does this happen to us in our work and personal life? We know that celebrating success is important, but as the workload increases and the pace of change accelerates it never quite feels like the right time. The start of one objective merges with the end of another and the natural ‘lull’ in activities that signals ‘time to celebrate’ never actually occurs.

Research has found that celebration and the positive psychological state it creates improves levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy (1). If you’re a leader, taking time to celebrate wins with your team creates a foundation for future success. To your team, it sends a clear message that you recognise their effort and you’re not taking them for granted. If you want a high performing team, making sure you prioritise and make space for celebration becomes critical.

On one level, this all sound like commonsense. Unfortunately, there are a number of traps we can fall into, which mean we let great opportunities to celebrate pass us by. Here are five examples and how you can avoid them:

Perfectionism – When we pursue perfection, the job is never done and so there is a never a logical time to celebrate. To avoid this, break big tasks down into smaller parts so you recognise that a quality outcome has been achieved, even though there is more to do.

Being too grown-up to have fun – When we’re kids, a celebration is something to get excited about, and we embrace those opportunities wholeheartedly. As adults, we can sometimes get too caught up in how our excitement might be perceived, and so tone down our celebrations. Embrace the excitement – let your hair down.

Believing the celebration must be big – Whether it’s a crazy dance in the lift, bottle of champagne or a special day out, the celebration doesn’t have to be huge. But whatever you do, don’t wait.

Believing celebrating makes people stop working – Celebrating a ‘win’ or a job well done is not the same as saying, “OK, tools down. We’re done.”. It actually builds up the energy and engagement needed to finish the job.

Down-playing the small wins – Celebrations are not just for big achievements - it’s the little wins that make that achieving that big goal possible.


Thoughts into action

Think about your team over the last six months. How much has it achieved? How much time have you taken to celebrate those achievements? It doesn’t require a big investment - just do something.

About the author

Kate Christiansen is an award-winning author who helps leadership teams solve crunchy business problems together. With 25-years experience leading strategy development and implementation globally, Kate facilitates high-energy leadership sessions and presents engaging and thought provoking keynotes. She also partners with the boards and executive teams, helping them to focus on the things that matter and achieving results.

1.    Dr. Robert A. Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California (Davis) and the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology


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