How Looking Back Moves Us Forward: The Power of Celebration | by Wendy Buckingham

East Indian Coach at desk with laptop, pen and paper writing down successes

It's so easy to get discouraged on the path towards a big goal, worrying about what we still need to do to get there and overlooking what we have already achieved.

So when things stall and the way forward just seems too hard and challenging, it could be time to stop and reflect on how far you have already come.

My "Aha!" moment

This really came home to me many years ago, when my big goal was to complete the five-day trek from the Cusco base to magical Machu Picchu in Peru.

When I started walking each morning, the goal of the next peak or pass to be conquered could often be seen in the distance. But as I started to walk, because of the hilly terrain, that goal would disappear from sight.

I'd plod along, tired and breathless from the altitude, discouraged, grumbling and regretting starting out on this exhausting trek.

I was carrying on like this on the second day when the guide made me stop, turn around and look back down the trail to the starting point for the day. Way down in the distance, the red-caped porters were just little dots as they packed up the previous night's camp.

He pointed out how far I had already come and how steep the climb had been and congratulated me. I got it!

After a short rest and a well-earned chocolate bar, I got going again with renewed energy and enthusiasm. I acknowledged that I had already achieved a lot, and my ultimate big goal of reaching Machu Picchu and enjoying a celebratory "pisco sour" was that much closer.

This experience became my metaphor for the need to acknowledge and celebrate every step taken on the way to achieving a goal.

The importance of acknowledgment

As simple as it may seem, recognizing our progress has enormous benefits. Acknowledging and rewarding ourselves for the achievements, the little goals, along the way to the big goal:

  • Reinforces our confidence and motivation.
  • Helps makes our today as successful and memorable in our minds as the tomorrows we are reaching for.

And if we don't do this, there's the risk of getting caught in a cycle of feeling that we never quite achieve success—because there is always more to do. This frame of mind is tiring rather than energizing and motivating.

Why the reluctance to self-praise?

The resistance to acknowledging our own achievements often stems from childhood when, however well we did or however hard we tried, we were simply encouraged to do better.

Our well-meaning parents or teachers may have left out the vital information that it was OK to be proud of what we had actually achieved.

And if we did praise ourselves, we might have been told off for "boasting."

Self-congratulation is good!

It's healthy to reward yourself each time you complete a project or solve a problem that brings you closer to your goal.

And a muttered "Well done, me" may not be enough. Treat yourself to a massage; an hour on the beach; a walk among the trees; a new gadget, app or software program; or something new to wear.

Instead choose something that will give you joy and anchor the achievement in your mind.

Record your wins

Make it a habit to get out a notepad or write it down on a device, and regularly list all the wins you have had so far towards achieving your business and personal goals.

They don't have to be big things. For example, maybe you made that call, had the difficult conversation you were dreading, saved up for new equipment, signed up a new client, boosted your profits, got a system in place, passed an exam, achieved a certification, got to the gym or did some exercise.

These seemingly minor achievements are all wins worthy of acknowledgment and celebration. They indicate that you filled in part of the gap between the start of your journey and the end goal—and you're now that much closer to achieving success.

Acknowledging, enjoying and celebrating successes along the way to our goals boosts our confidence and makes future goals easier to set and achieve.

Greta's story

Here's a typical case study from my coaching that demonstrates how forgetting to look back and acknowledge ourselves can sabotage moving forward.

For four long years, Greta (not her real name) had studied and worked on the goal of achieving her Master of Laws degree: a big step towards the ultimate goal of having her own law practice.

Even with the support of her husband, it hadn't been easy with a young family and a part-time job to juggle around her studies. But she got there, lecture by lecture, assignment by assignment!

Yet instead of acknowledging and celebrating what she'd achieved along the way to finally getting her degree, Greta went straight into planning how she would set up her law practice.

But things didn't feel right.

She came for life coaching because she was feeling tired and flat and couldn't understand why she was having trouble getting motivated to put her plans into action.

My first coaching assignment for Greta was to look back and acknowledge what she'd already achieved in difficult circumstances—and find a way to celebrate.

She did this, and after a week off celebrating at a luxury health resort, her energy had returned and she was full of enthusiasm to work on the next stage of her big goal.


So, what do you think? Do you need to stop and celebrate your wins? Well, I hope this article helps you be kind to yourself when the path to your goals seems hard and you feel like giving up. Because acknowledgment and celebration are such restorers and motivators.

What's your favourite way of celebrating achievements, big or small? I'd love to know! Simply comment below.

If you liked this article about the importance of celebrating goals and wins, you may also like:

Mastering the Art of Goals Coaching

A Book all about the art of Goal-Setting:

If you liked this, try the eBook edition of Wendy's Mastering the Art of Goals Coaching here on her website.

Mastering the Art of Goals Coaching is a step-by-step guide for coaches to help clients achieve their goals with confidence, ease and certainty. Wendy's extensive experience as a coach has led her to refine goal-setting principles into a proven system in this new book.

Note: You may also recognize Wendy as she is an invaluable Moderator in our Facebook Group Coaches Helping Coaches!

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Contributing Author:

Wendy Buckingham is a certified life coach with over 20 years' experience. She now supports new and experienced coaches through her website Life Coaching Professionally. Wendy also offers a free subscription to her regular Life Coaching Accelerators of insider tips to enhance your coaching skills and grow your practice.

Over the last 10 years Life Coaching Professionally has evolved into a valued, independent and free resource for coaches and become Wendy's life’s work and legacy.

Wendy’s Life Coaching Successfully Series of books is also an evolving expression of her work, passing on information and skills for successful coaching in a compact and user-friendly format. You can find details of the books here for the best bundle price deals, and also on Amazon.

Learn more about Wendy & see all their articles here >>

Image of East Indian Coach at desk with laptop, pen and paper writing down successes by Dragon Images via Shutterstock

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