Professor Damian Hughes is an international speaker and best-selling author of eight books who combines his practical and academic background within sport, organisational development and change psychology, to help organisations and teams to create a high performing culture. This blog post gives insight into the power of small wins and how celebrating and acknowledging them can affect our overall performance.
Most of us instinctively spend a lot of time and energy seeking the big breakthrough: that magical moment when, after a lot of effort, everything finally clicks. When you win the big contract, pass the test, get the standing ovation. Those moments are incredibly satisfying, but they’re also a problem.
Here’s why. Focusing on the big breakthrough can cause you to overreach. It can create a steady diet of disappointment (after all, breakthroughs are rare, by definition). Worse, you stop focusing on the smaller, incremental things that really matter.
The best leaders I’ve met don’t get caught up in seeking big breakthrough moments. Instead, they hunt the little breakthroughs – the small, seemingly insignificant progressions that create steady, daily progress. In short, they love baby steps.
Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer explore this idea in their fascinating book The Progress Principle. In it, they analyse 12,000 diary entries from 238 people to get a picture of the subjects’ inner work life. They found that the common trait of highly successful people is that they are focused on achieving ‘small wins‘ – those tiny, daily progressions that don’t seem like much but which add up, over time, to big things.
The payoffs of a ‘small win‘ mindset are clear: you tend to be less disappointed, and more motivated. You stay focused on the present. You don’t overreach by taking shortcuts and trying to do everything at once. Perhaps most importantly, the ‘small win‘ approach is aligned with the way your brain is built to learn: little by little, bit by bit. As Jose Mourinho said:
“Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens it lasts”.
A few ideas for a small-win mindset:
- Keep a daily notebook and jot down the small changes you make each day
- When you achieve a small win, freeze. Don’t breeze past small improvements but instead, take a few seconds to celebrate and acknowledge them
- Aim for a daily SAP – Smallest Achievable Perfection. Pick one little thing to perfect in a single day – one move, one action, one chunk. Work on it until it’s polished, until you can’t not do it right
This blog post is from ‘Raising the Bar: A Leader’s Guide’ by Professor Damian Hughes. To find out more about Damian, or to check his availability for your event or conference, give our dedicated team a call on 02031377353 or email firstname.lastname@example.org