“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” – Oprah Winfrey
Over this weekend I was having a conversation with one of my colleagues about a few recent accomplishments I made at work that included receiving a few signed awards by city and state officials. I suppose the awards were fairly significant, but I didn’t make a big deal about them. A typical move for most people I suppose. Thankfully, she took the awards and had them nicely framed and posted the info on our company information site. Not only did I receive great feedback from other colleagues about the awards, but now as they sit in my office, I can acknowledge the accomplishments regularly versus them sitting at the bottom of a pile on my desk, never to be thought about again by me nor anyone else.
So I thought about my initial decision to chalk the awards up as just another day and keep it moving. Was that about humility, not wanting the extra attention or something else? For me in this case I have to admit it was the latter. That something else was a choice to not celebrate myself. Culturally, as children we our taught to not be prideful or arrogant, but all too often many of us have taken that life teaching to extreme measures. How many times have you deferred acknowledgment about something great that you were a part of or have done, all in the spirit of not wanting to take any credit or worse simply dismissing your part in it all together? Another popular term for this is to minimize ourselves.
Often times it is more comfortable for us to become small than it is to be acknowledged.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe arrogance is becoming nor productive for a team or a relationship to be successful, but where is the line drawn for being confident versus being arrogant? I personally believe how we choose to answer to this question determines the very trajectory of our lives, how successful we will become in our career paths and even how we raise our children. If we go through life waiting for others to pat us on the back, what happens when that day never happens? Do we become victims of our own inability to look in the mirror of our lives and become proud of what we see? Could there be some lurking fear in us on what being successful means. Do we shun it and attempt to avoid it all cost because of this fear?
It is an acceptable phrase, that life is often like a race and for many that means the ones with the most toys wins. Although toys are fun and certainly nice to have, what if we decided to look at life like a marathon instead? Now I’m not an avid runner, but I have run a few 5k’s in my day and I have a few friends that are runners of full and half marathons. What I know from them along with myself is running is one of the only few sports/activities that you are racing against yourself. Whether it is to beat past performance or simply finish the course, there really is only you and the road or track ahead of you. As I have come across the finish line and watched others struggle to get there in long marathons it is always a sense of accomplishment to simply finish. The joy of running the race is sweeter when we finish it. Then we receive an award for completing the task along with others cheering us on. Receiving an award during this time is acceptable because we know it’s about the hard work we put in and we feel deserving of it.
Is it possible for us to begin to transform how we think about celebrating ourselves by adopting a runner’s philosophy with life’s our accomplishments? This is not a license to say, “look at me” every time we do something great, but what’s wrong with taking an inventory of your successes and doing something nice for yourself periodically, and maybe even letting some one else know about it? As I have mentioned in prior post, we are often our own worse enemy and rarely do we require any assistance when it comes to identifying our flaws and short-comings, so how about we begin identifying some of the positive things we’re doing, even in the midst of a storm?
I’ll confess that after what seemed like endless failures in relationships, my voice on this subject matter seemed null and void especially to myself. However what I learned is I actually became a more qualified spokesperson with each trial. As long as I was willing to acknowledge, make the necessary changes and grow from each experience I could become a voice of reason and hope to those suffering in this area of their lives. Not only do I celebrate this, but I am actively engaged in helping others on a regular basis. Each time I have the opportunity to share my story, I see it as a small win. Not only a win for me, but the many others that hear and take heed to the lessons I have learned over the years.
Just the other day I was sitting in a restaurant and a lady I didn’t know tapped me on my shoulder and told me she just bought a home and wanted to share the news with someone. I acknowledged her accomplishment and commenced to conversing with her for several minutes. For her that was a huge accomplishment, which it is, and the fact she wasn’t afraid to tell a stranger this news was actually pretty cool. I found out it was her first home purchase and she wanted celebrate it. That is what crossing the finish line looked like to her.
Someone once told me as I was feeling sorry for myself because I’ve been through two divorces, to figuratively take those divorces, frame them and hang them on the wall as a means to acknowledge that they occurred, but they no longer define who I am. Only that the experience has made me a better man and ultimately a better husband (one day) because I made the choice to learn from them. It took me while to truly get that analogy, but once I did, I saw myself breaking across the tape of a finish line. I had won that battle and it was time I gave myself license to celebrate it.
What areas of your life deserve celebrating that you have not acknowledged? Have you achieved a goal weight, controlled your temper more effectively or quit smoking? The list can go on and on, but the important thing is to develop the list and celebrate yourself, especially when no one else does. Even if the accomplishments seem small they are worthy of acknowledgement and worthy of praise.
Bottom line, life is hard and even in a world with over six billion people, we can find ourselves very lonely and alone. If we’re not careful we can drown in the misery that exist around us and fail to see and acknowledge the great things that are happening around us. Our ability to celebrate ourselves could be the very thing that not only builds you up, but equally encourages someone else to smile and see the world as hopeful and worthy of living. So like my colleague and friend did, take those accomplishments and awards and frame them for the world to see.