Small Victories

gold stars

Sometimes, life is hard.  I’m not talking about specifics parts of life being difficult, I mean just living is hard sometimes.  Getting up.  Getting dressed.  Getting to work on time.  Exercising.  Eating well.  Interacting with people.  Cleaning up after yourself.

Times when living is hard can be really frustrating.  There is so much more we need to do in a day than the basics I just listed above.  When it takes great effort and discipline to just get ready in the morning, it can feel like we have no resources left within us.  Add to that the knowledge that we are struggling with tasks that seem to be automatic for others… to say the least, it’s a defeating cycle.

A friend of mine has a running private joke that when she does something that is hard for her, she gets an imaginary sticker.  Recently, she made her strategy more concrete: she started a note on her phone where she can put a gold star symbol every time she completes something that is typically hard for her.  Sometimes, when she needs encouragement, she sits for a few minutes and thinks through the day, giving herself a gold star for each item she can remember.

I don’t have a strategy quite as creative, but I do try to recognize my own small victories.  Sometimes this means a quiet celebration when I realize I have done something in a time when it’s typically challenging; sometimes it means taking a deep breath when I feel like I’ve failed, reminding myself of what I have been able to do.

As a specific example, I’ve written before about how summer can be difficult for me (It Isn’t Like That For Everyone).  The other day, I managed to get up on time, exercise, get to school to work on setting up my classroom, pushed through a few moments of feeling stalled, and left in time to get to an appointment at the time I said I’d be there.  None of that is anything I’d expect anyone to bat an eye at, much less be impressed with.  But during a time like summer–when I have no routine and no one but myself to be accountable to–each piece was a small victory for me.

As a caution–be careful about when and how you recognize these small victories for others.  However well-intentioned you may be, it can feel patronizing to be congratulated for things you’d praise a toddler for being able to do.  On the other hand, when someone who truly knows you well genuinely recognizes you have done something that is specifically difficult for you, it can also be incredibly affirming.

Much of the time, however, there’s no one around to know what you’ve done, or no one around who would be able to recognize what’s going on.  And that’s ok.  No one else needs to know but you.  And you do need to know.  Your victories may be small, but they are yours.

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