I'm in Columbus, OH, attending a series of meetings with a customer. Last night, five of us went to P F Chang's for some scrumptious Chinese food. We shared an order of the vegetarian wraps and the spicy green beans as appetizers while waiting for our main courses to arrive. I chose the Ma Po Tofu with brown rice and wound up eating less than half the portion! And, of course, as we ended our meal, the waiter brought us fortune cookies along with take-home boxes.
I particularly liked last night's fortune which reads:
Do not let great ambitions overshadow small success.
Now that's just intriguing—and very good advice. Too often we hear “don't sweat the small stuff”, but in reality, if you don't pay attention to the small stuff, you miss out on a lot. It makes a lot more sense to celebrate every success, no matter how small, instead of postponing until some major milestone has been reached.
We have a lot of real-life examples. Consider the major success of getting your high-school diploma is preceded by many small successes. There's the yearly promotion as you master the skills and knowledge prescribed for each school grade. There's the smaller success at the end of each grading term as the report card goes home with progress indicators.
At the beginning of each year, many of us make New Year's Resolutions. Too often, the resolutions are abandoned by 1 March because they ask for a great accomplishment rather than setting up an environment where we can achieve any number of small successes.
Several years ago I stopped committing to large scale Resolutions. Instead, I set new goals that require only small changes in my behavior with lots of opportunities to succeed—daily, even. And, the fortune last night reminds me that I need to allow myself to celebrate each success, no matter how small—or even how mundane. When I get to bed at a reasonable hour instead of staying up until 2am, that's a success. When I avoid overeating, that's a success. When I write down the name of a book that I've read and update my GoodReads bookshelf, that's a success. And these successes contribute to a greater goal. I'll be healthier at the end of 2009 than I was at its beginning. I'll have a record of every book I've read during the year.
In the past two weeks, I've been reading other peoples' blogs as they talk about New Year's Resolutions and Goals. I had one I wanted to point to, but I didn't save a link; and now my browser history is so full, I can't find it again. Oh well! You get the point. Every day brings a new opportunity for multiple successes. I can set goals which take only a small amount of effort to meet, but which provide a cumulative benefit. I'm not going to look so far ahead that I miss what's right in front of me.