The Miracle of Small Wins

Small wins pay off big. Social scientists and business experts agree that modest victories can provide major inspiration.

You may have heard of the progress principle. Researchers at Harvard Business School conducted a multi-year study of what makes employees happy and productive. They found that daily progress on meaningful work was the most powerful factor by far.

Take a look at the general principles behind this foolproof formula for success, along with practical examples about how you can apply a small wins strategy to your life.

General Principles Behind Small Wins

1. Keep a journal. Writing in a journal will help you recognize and celebrate miniature milestones that you might otherwise overlook. You’ll also be able to track your progress and understand the conditions that affect your performance.

2. Create catalysts. According to the Harvard team, there are two kinds of actions that encourage small wins. The first, catalysts, are related to how you work. Set clear goals, budget your time and resources, and practice open communications.

3. Seek nourishers. The second kind of action is called nourishers, and refers to interpersonal support. Surround yourself with friends and colleagues who provide validation and constructive feedback. Participate in groups that share your interests, whether it’s a faith community or professional association.

4. Set intermediate goals. Lofty goals can be overwhelming. Break any project down into tiny tasks. You’ll feel invigorated each time you check something off your to-do list.

5. Learn from setbacks. The flipside of small wins is the discouragement that can follow running into an obstacle. Acknowledge your feelings. Turn mistakes into valuable lessons.

Practical Examples of Small Wins Strategies

1. Eat more vegetables. Sticking to a healthy diet may be easier than you think when you focus on only one change at a time. Work your way up to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Mix spinach into your eggs at breakfast. Snack on baby carrots and hummus.

2. Cut down on sugar. If you like sweetened coffee, use half your usual amount of sugar. The savings will add up.

3. Go to bed on time. Adequate sleep keeps your body and mind in top condition. You’ll probably accomplish more even if you shorten your waking hours.

4. Exercise for 5 minutes. Are you tired of lapsed gym memberships? You’ll be exercising for more than a half hour by the end of the week if you start with 5 minutes and add just 5 minutes a day to your home workouts.

5. Memorize a few lines. Maybe you’d like to speak Russian or recite poetry, but your busy schedule gets in the way. Ty practicing just 5 vocabulary words or one stanza a day.

6. Extend your network. Whatever you do for a living, networking is essential. Introduce yourself to a new contact or reconnect with a former colleague.

7. Dazzle a customer. Similarly, you can make any work more meaningful by focusing on those who use your products or services. Give someone a sneak peek at your new line and ask for their feedback.

8. Listen to your child. Show your child how much you love them by giving them your full attention. Empathize with their struggles in Algebra or congratulate them on making the soccer team.

9. Surprise your spouse. Brighten your partner’s day with a fun surprise. Take out the garbage when it’s their turn. Put a love note in their briefcase or pick up a carton of their favorite ice cream on your way home from work.

Grand visions are the sum of many small wins that help you translate your dreams into action. Taking a small step forward each day will bring you success and happiness.