Most of us have heard the saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. That’s true—what we really should do with the small stuff is celebrate it. That’s the message from Ironman athlete, Sara Strope, in a recent blog article that extracts lessons from triathlon training and applies them to work.
We’re all busy in our daily tasks and projects at work. Often, we’re so focused on the big picture or the end goal, that we forget to take notice of and use the incremental information available to us. Or we neglect to recognize the micro achievements by individuals and teams along the way.
The power of small wins cannot be understated. In their research on creative work inside organizations, Teresa Amabil and Steven J. Kramer uncovered the progress principle:
“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.”
This is exactly what Sara has experienced in her rigorous training. Here are a few of her key learnings that she brings back from the bike and into her workday (quotes below are from this article):
- Set benchmarks
Check in with yourself and your team regularly to see how you’re doing and to test your readiness for achieving bigger goals. It also helps build confidence. Sara races shorter distances to make sure that she’s on track for goal races. “By completing that milestone, I knew that even though it might take me twice the time of the half Ironman to finish the full Ironman a month later, I would reach the finish line of that race too.”
- Share your accomplishments
External validation of your efforts drives you forward. Signaling to others that you’re making progress results in feedback and support for you and your goals. “Celebrating incremental accomplishments helps maintain motivation and focus. It will also help you tweak and improve along the way.”
- Small victories add up
Even the most ordinary step forward can contribute to something extraordinary. “On their own, most of the items on our weekly and monthly lists, just like a log of workouts, are not so noteworthy, but they do mark milestones in our development and the compilation of small items demonstrates the overall direction we’re heading.”
- Recognize and reward often
Learn to be aware of and recognize the many small successes that happen every day. Give real and virtual high-fives or write a note to someone to recognize something small but big. “Finding those moments to acknowledge, recognize, and reward your team members along the way will help reach that final goal with a team that’s committed and content.”
Most of us aren’t Ironman triathletes, but all of us can learn from those who are. So, while you’re chipping away at work and life goals, don’t forget to celebrate the small stuff. It matters.