23 January 2013

Celebrating the small victories

You may have noticed that I occasionally talk about "small victories" here, and I've always meant to say a bit more about why. So when I found an article a few months ago about The Secret to Happiness and Productivity at Work (spoiler alert: it's keeping track of small victories), I copied the link and put it aside into my "this-would-be-good-to-blog-about" file. With the realization that identifying small victories isn't just helpful for YAVs, I thought I'd finally get around to sharing it.

As I mentioned in August, I attended a week-long YAV orientation before I came to Belfast. Every Young Adult Volunteer for the 2012-13 year went to New York to get to know one another, but also to prepare ourselves for a year of mission service, whether it be in Nashville or Kenya. We were joined by former YAVs who told us their stories in preparation for the challenges we might face - learning about culture shock, self-care and community living.

One of the people we met was Ellie Roscher, who wrote the book How Coffee Saved My Life: And Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace, based on her year in Uruguay. She was cheerful and funny and dynamic, and told horror stories about dietary challenges and personality conflicts. Based on her experiences, some of the advice she gave was to shift what a "victory" means. She talked about changing her definition of success and motivating herself by celebrating the small victories each day. I will include some of my favorites from her list here:
I laughed more than I cried. 
I won the affection of preschoolers. 
I did things that scared me every day. 
I wore only two pairs of pants all year. 
I came to believe that my worth does not, indeed, depend on my productivity.
I taught Ignacio how to tie his shoes and blow bubbles with gum.
 Ellie Roscher, How Coffee Saved My Life

Sometimes, I am good at this. Like this post, or this one. Most of the time, I'm not. I get caught up in busy schedules or rainy days, and I get grumpy. I add up the grievances as the day goes on: "...I lost my keys, so I missed my bus. I had to walk in the rain and my iPod died. Now I'm late, wet and annoyed." This leaves me with a negative view of the entire day, and by letting these thoughts consume me I push out all opportunities to see the good. What if instead of adding up the negatives each day, I tallied the best parts?

I've learned that if you think negative thoughts long enough they will consume your reality, and that's not the kind of person I want to be. So I have decided that when presented with a choice, I will choose to be positive. Enjoy the walk, the fresh air and exercise, the chance to clear my head. To see the rainbow instead of the rain.

No. It is not easy. I've been working on this for weeks and I've failed miserably at just about every opportunity. I've justified it to myself as "being honest about my true feelings", but the truth is that a good attitude can become a good habit with practice, even if that means faking it until you make it.

So in that spirit, some of my more recent accomplishments:
  • Remembered to take the recycling to the kerb (curb) this morning
  • Was greeted with a huge grin by a wee boy from mums and tots
  • Finished a very detailed report at work - it was so great to cross that off the list!
  • Completed my first solo overnight travel to Dublin 
What about you? What are your victories (large or small) this week?

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