Taking a moment
Taking a moment
I often start these blogs explaining that I’d been inspired by something that had come up in sessions the preceding week because I’m endlessly curious about the topics and themes that clients raise, but this week I want to write about something that I’ve become increasingly aware of that I’m really rubbish at! It’s something that I’ve been trying to work on, and I’ve been trying to figure some more authentic ways of approaching it and also, I know I’m totally not the only one who finds this tricky. This week is all about how we acknowledge progress and achievements. I know that mind sound really silly or maybe even sounds like it can only come from a position of privilege (something like, “well it’s ok for you Thea, but I’m knee-deep in my trauma, I can’t really see anything worth acknowledging”). But actually, I think part of our issue with this topic is in part because we’re so conditioned these days to only recognise absolutes (success OR failure, win OR loss, start OR finish) that we aren’t great at seeing the smaller progress points that we achieve along the way.
I’m becoming more and more aware of this personally. You see, I’m a natural-born goal-setter. I have loved notebooks, journals and all that stuff since I was about 10 years old. And I think that as an adult, and a small business owner, I learned early that the only way to survive (it makes me feel way safer to be able to plan, set timelines/scales and prepare for deadlines) was to write down my plans and goals for the year. It’s the only way that I get sh*t done. I’ve trialled just about every planner that has been created and for maybe the last 5 years I’ve been using the Full Focus Planner (totally not a plug for them) and I really do believe it’s helped me stay on track, help with my focus and get things achieved. I have a mixture of achievement goals (this year: start my PhD, pass Confirmation of Candidature for my PhD, get a paper published as a first author etc.) and habit goals (this year: reading goals around fiction and non-fiction books, healthy habits like drinking water and eating more green things etc.). It’s been super helpful. But I’ve always struggled with the section that encourages me to outline how I’m going to celebrate success for each goal, and even the bit at the bottom of each page which says, “Daily Win”. I find it SO HARD to recognise the achievements – big or small.
Why does acknowledging achievements matter?
One of the big things about behaviour change – which is our ultimate goal even when our primary goal might be trauma-processing – is that it requires us to develop new neural pathways. When we acknowledge or even celebrate our wins, we are enhancing our newly developed neural pathways, which makes it easier for us to repeat the behaviours or action. This in turn has some significant mental health boosting effects. When we acknowledge our progress and achievements – however small – we enhance our self-esteem and confidence which in turn supports mastery and resilience. These pathways all help with our overall mental health and wellbeing and when we’re talking about trauma recovery it’s super important that we strengthen them as we work through all the hard and painful memories and experiences.
One of the other things to consider is that when we acknowledge our progress ourselves, we strengthen our internal locus of evaluation and validation. Oftentimes we externalise this experience – so much of our attachment trauma comes from not feeling ‘seen’ or validated by our caregivers so it is unsurprising that our default mechanism is to seek praise from others. However, when we develop an internal locus of evaluation, we again strengthen our confidence and self-esteem.
How to celebrate our wins:
Well, this one I’m still working on. I’m revisiting one of my favourite Resilience Project suggestions so where I’m prompted to write down my ‘Daily Win’ I write down the thing that went most well for me today. (In case you need a reminder about that one, practising gratitude helps with resilience.) I’m also being very deliberate about reward-setting alongside my goal-setting. I’m playing with what those rewards look like (sometimes it’s just a coffee and an internal high-5, other times (like today) it’s a massage or some new books) but the one thing I am doing is taking a moment to reflect on what it feels like to have made progress. Whether it’s a big goal or just a little thing that I’ve been deliberately trying to do differently, the action of acknowledging the progress being the new goal.
If you’d like to explore how you could acknowledge your achievements, set some new goals, or would like a safe space to talk about your mental health, please get in touch with us: www.theabaker.com.au / email@example.com / 03 9077 8194.