Small wins are signposts that lead to bigger wins later. The point of celebrating our kid’s small victories is to give us a sense of progress and accomplishment as signposts along the way to accomplishing a much bigger task or goal. The Harvard Business Journal calls this the Progress Principle, and it boosts our emotions and motivates us to do meaningful work in the long term.
If you’re trying to get your kid to finish a school project, do a household chore or clean their room, start by celebrating their small wins. It will motivate them towards accomplishing bigger goals because they’ll feel intrinsically motivated to keep going.
Not every day goes as planned, or as hoped. Any win, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is worth celebrating. Small wins lead to even bigger ones later.
The idea of small wins adding up to bigger ones is a theory called the Progress Principle discovered by Professors Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer at the Harvard Business School. It suggests that the single most important thing that can boost a person’s positive emotions, motivate them to move forward, and give them the perception of accomplishment is making progress in meaningful work. Solving small problems can lead to an extraordinarily positive inner work life. In the professional arena, this drives performance, creativity, and productivity and has the power to make it a “best day.”
When a kid experiences a small win, the feeling of making progress keeps them motivated because it’s personally rewarding and they like doing it. Success can be found when you start to recognize small wins; celebrate what your kid has done so far to spur them on to completion. Here are five steps to keep them going:
- Name it. Our perception of losses and wins might be different from our kids. Ask them what they consider the wins to be and record their responses as reminders.
- Give kudos for the strong effort your kids put into their work— rather than the outcome. The effort in itself is a small win! This is especially important because while our kids might be building up their confidence, they are inevitably going to hit roadblocks and bumps.
- Cultivate gratitude for the small wins. Gratitude has the power to energize and to heal. It improves psychological health by reducing such toxic emotions as envy, resentment,frustration and regret.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Negative self-talk can zap the energy you need to pick yourself up and start again.
- Get realistic. We get into trouble when we don’t base our expectations in reality. Maybe the goal is too big. Break it into a series of smaller, more achievable steps that feel more achievable
Aim for the moon, if you miss, you may hit a star
— W. Clement Stone, Philanthropist