Success breeds success. If you think that’s just some quaint saying, it turns out you’d be wrong. Several experiments have shown that small, random, initial advantages can spiral into huge ones.
In one study conducted by Arnout van de Rijt, he and his team went to four established websites (i.e. Kickstarter, Change.org) and randomly distributed small shows of support or success. In each instance, “success” was given in different ways: monetary donation, endorsements, awards or a public show of support. In each case these small initial gains gathered momentum and turned into significant ones later.
Read this sentence again: In each case these small initial gains gathered momentum and turned into significant ones later. Why is that important? Because it shows us that we become more successful when we build on smaller, initial successes. While it may seem obvious that we should acknowledge or feel good about success when it comes our way, we often do the opposite.
“At times we can all feel overwhelmed by the chaotic demands of our busy lives and careers. But often we’re actually more successful then we realize,” says Lianne Morgan, Career Coach and Managing Director at Wirestone Digital Marketing. “I’ve seen many of my colleagues prepare tirelessly for a presentation and do a great job. Afterwards, when others congratulate them on the outcome, they’ll respond with, it was just okay, I could have done better or I needed more time. I find women are especially guilty of downplaying their success like this. And with those words we completely negate all the hard work and smart thinking that was put into a successful presentation.”
Instead, Morgan suggests that we build up our sense of inner authority and self-confidence by consciously acknowledging all our successes small or big. “It’s great when other people or outside forces acknowledge our hard work, a job well done or a success we’ve had, but that doesn’t always happen. So I’ve found that it’s very beneficial to learn how to do it for ourselves—because I do really think that the more success we recognize and experience internally the more successful we’ll be in life.”
Owning our success doesn’t have to take up a lot of time either—it’s more a matter of taking just a few moments to acknowledge the success instead of downplaying or blowing it off. Morgan offers the following steps:
- Take a few moments to internally acknowledge the success, give yourself kudos on doing on a great job whether it was a hard conversation, winning business or a personal best.
- Look at how you prepared—the fears you faced, the steps you took to make it happen. Go over them in your mind and recognize what went well.
- Thank people who helped you—this can be done internally or in-person as appropriate. But really it’s about registering the fact that part of your success was your ability to seek and accept help when you need it.
- Breathe in the feeling of success.
- Repeat these steps as many times as necessary until you feel like you’ve anchored this particular success in your psyche.
You might also consider the following to build on the steps above:
- Use a journal to do a daily or weekly review and write down everything you’ve accomplished and particularly what went well. This is really helpful to look back at when you’re having a hard time or think you aren’t doing enough. You’ll be surprised when you review your journal at how much you’ve actually accomplished.
- Celebrate your successes with friends and family. Don’t be shy about letting people in your inner circle know when something goes well for you. They love you and will be glad to support you.
- Remember where and who you were when you started a project or relationship and acknowledge how far you’ve come.
Owning your success in this way is like building up a muscle—the more you do it the stronger you become. When we take the time to practice this simple acknowledgement of what we’re doing well, we shift our inner focus away from the more critical voices we might have inside. Too often we dwell on what we’re doing wrong instead of reinforcing what’s going well.
“Self-criticism takes us out of the flow but owning our success keeps us energized and moving forward,” says Morgan. Ultimately, being our own success advocate can helps us be more successful and take on more risks because we believe in ourselves and our abilities.