Celebrate your successes

Some you win, some you lose is a well-known saying. We can’t realistically expect to succeed in everything we do, so we have to learn to take the rough with the smooth, of course. However, my concern is that life can be so pressurised much of the time that we do not take the opportunity to savour those successes; we perhaps feel we are too busy to stop and focus on what has gone well because we are too busy rushing on to the next challenge or dealing with things that aren’t going so well.

This is not just a pity to miss out on the positive feelings associated with success, it’s also a problem in at least two ways:

(i) Success breeds success – doing well can have the very positive effect of boosting motivation and strengthening confidence; this can make us both more efficient and more effective. This can then lead to a virtuous circle – that is, the further success brings further opportunities for celebrating and a further boost to motivation and confidence.

(ii) Keeping things in perspective – sometimes there can be so much pressure at work (as well as in our private lives), so many hassles to deal with that we tend to focus a great deal on the negatives. This can create a vicious circle in which the negativity depresses morale and, in turn low morale can fuel a focus on the negatives, which then has a further adverse effect on morale.

These reasons help us to understand why it is important not to lose sight of the positives and, indeed, to value those positives, to celebrate our successes and to appreciate what we have going for us.

So, what can get in the way of having such a balanced approach to life in general and work in particular? Well, there are various things, not least the following:

  • The influence of others If you find yourself living and/or working with people who do not recognise or celebrate their successes, it may simply be that you find yourself following in their footsteps – it has become the norm, part of the culture. If that is the case, that is easily sorted, as you are not a puppet with your strings being pulled by others. You can decide to go against the grain and show them the value of celebrating success (although that may seem an uncomfortable thing to do at first).
  • Habit Maybe it’s not the habits of others; perhaps it is just your own habit that has developed and led you down that path. If so, your challenge now will be to break that habit by consciously creating time and space to highlight your successes and get the full benefit of doing so. Just as you do not need to be a victim of the culture you operate in, nor do you need to be a passive victim of your own habits – they are your habits, so you can do with them what you will.
  • Anxiety Unfortunately, anxiety, which at heart is a helpful warning system of threat or danger, can often be allowed to become a problem by blocking progress. An anxious person is less likely to be confident, to be creative, to learn or, indeed, to be positive about success – they are more likely to be focusing on potential or actual threats (real or imagined) and therefore miss out.
  • Misplaced modesty Some people I have spoken to about celebrating success have told me they would feel uncomfortable doing so, because they had been brought up to be modest and unassuming. This is understandable, but there is a big difference between being immodest and quietly and calmly celebrating a well-deserved success.

None of these obstacles is insurmountable, so the scope for taking the necessary steps to get the benefits of recognising and celebrating success is quite significant.


Use mind maps

There are many occasions when it is useful, if not essential, to have a record of our thoughts and/or the events to which they relate. Some people seem never to make notes; they simply rely on their memory, which, of course, is not a wise strategy, as it involves leaving to chance what is recalled and what is not. Other people, I’m aware, make copious notes, but never refer to them again – they just file them away as if having them somewhere to hand will be of value. Yet others have no filing system, so their chances of finding any notes they may have taken are relatively slim anyway.

So, when it comes to making notes, there is no shortage of practices that are not very effective and thus do not serve us well. However, it is also fair to say that there are limitations to traditional note-taking practices, even when well used. This is because, by their very nature, traditional notes are ‘linear’ – that is, they follow a straightforward structure from point one to point two and so on. But life isn’t linear, and nor is the way our minds work. What can therefore be helpful is s process of note taking that more fully reflects our thinking processes. This is where ‘mind maps’ come in.

A mind map is constructed by putting the topic in question (whatever it is you want to make notes about) in a box in the centre of the page. From this central focus you can have other boxes (or lines) that emanate from it with subtopics, issues or reflections that relate to the central focus. From each of these secondary boxes or lines you can develop further subtopics, issues or whatever. This enables the note taker to explore different avenues, different lines of thought, while considering the topic. This makes the notes multidimensional, and this allows us to be more creative in our thinking and more holistic (by giving us an overview of a topic or theme). The example below gives a sense of what is involved.





This one was produced using mind mapping software, and there are various software options available, ranging from free to expensive (depending on the additional facilities available within the package concerned). However, software is not needed, as perfectly good mind maps can be produced with pen and paper.

Mind maps can be very useful for getting a sense of structure and control in relation to the topic in hand. In addition, its visual nature means that their contents are more likely to be recalled at any future point. So, there are quite a few benefits to using this tool.

Some people take to mind maps straight away and quickly become quite proficient in using them. Others may struggle at first to produce a useful mind map because they are so used to adopting the linear approach to note taking. For this latter group there is much to be gained from being persistent. The skills can be developed with practice and can, in due course, be taken to quite a high level of competence, if not actual expertise.

When used well, mind maps can be a great aid to understanding – for example, in highlighting interconnections and patterns that would probably not have emerged from a linear approach. They can also be useful in presenting a more coherent picture to be presented to others than conventional notes would afford. They can also be added to at a later date as circumstances change or our thoughts and understanding develop.

All in all, then, mind maps offer very real potential for a valuable and effective approach to information storage to inform our thoughts, understanding and action.