Hello SWE Grad Community!
Can you believe it’s August already? I feel like it was just yesterday I was wrapping up a busy spring semester and looking forward to using the summer change of pace as an opportunity to get plenty of reading, research, and writing done!
If you read Amy’s blog post about making the most of summer in grad school, maybe you kicked off your summer by creating a list of goals to guide your summer trajectory. Have you checked your progress recently? I’m a very goal-oriented person and about this time in the summer I check up on my goals and often start freaking out about all the things I set out to do but haven’t done yet. Maybe you’re in the same situation! Instead of feeling guilty about all the things you haven’t accomplished, I want to encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the things that you have accomplished. Also, consider all of the extra tasks and projects that may have come up this summer, and how those may have influenced your ability to accomplish your original summer goals – these small, unexpected tasks that were completed are wins too! On the other hand, maybe you have had a very productive summer and are totally on track to reach all your goals…great! You too should take a moment and celebrate your victories!
It is well documented on the individual and organizational levels that engaging in meaningful progress can drive motivation, satisfaction, and creativity. Teresa Amabile from the The Harvard Business School designed a study which collected 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees across 7 companies and found that the daily habit of noting small victories increases appreciation of even incremental progress which in turn increases sense of confidence. The reward centers in the brain can be activated by even small accomplishments, inducing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which reinforces and encourages productive behaviors to continue the feelings of pride and accomplishment. Taking the time to reflect on and celebrate the small wins can be a powerful tool to increase motivation and sense of satisfaction- things that are extremely valuable through the ups and down of graduate school!
Why is it so hard to celebrate the small wins?
Maybe it feels silly to pat yourself on the back for something that is not a major milestone or project. Maybe self-critique, not self-appreciation, comes naturally to you. Maybe in the busyness and stress of life and grad school you haven’t had a chance to realize the victories along the journey. Graduate school is full of highs and lows, and don’t underestimate the power of taking a moment to reflect and enjoy when something good happens!
What does celebrating even look like?
Celebrating your victories doesn’t have to look like treating yourself to a fancy dinner when you update your CV or throwing a party when you finish a chapter of your dissertation; the key is taking a moment to acknowledge and appreciate your meaningful progress and good performance! Maybe it looks like keeping some fun snacks in your desk or taking a coffee break with a labmate. Maybe it looks like simply giving yourself a mental high five or sharing a small win with a mentor or colleague. There is power in sharing your good news as well – labmates, friends, and family members can help you celebrate when you share your wins in everyday conversation. Find what feels rewarding to you!
Here are some last tips for celebrating the little wins:
Like muscles and working out, recognizing the small achievements can be difficult or awkward at first, but with practice and dedication those abilities can be strengthened. Set a daily reminder or calendar appointment to stop and reflect on the progress you have made that day. Or use a habit tracking app like coach.me to help build a routine.
- Create a culture of celebration
Share your victories with labmates and friends and celebrate with them when they share their small wins. By fostering an environment where even incremental progress is valued, group morale is grown, not only individual confidence. Friends and mentors can be your cheerleaders when times are tough and hold you accountable as you build your habit. And you can help your coworkers form similar habits by celebrating their small victories as well.
Personally, I keep a small notebook in my desk where I keep track of breakthroughs I’ve had and small victories I’ve won. I call it my “Little Book of Little Wins.” Sometimes when I’m stuck or very discouraged about my work and progress, I flip through my little book and I’m given perspective on the progress I have made in my graduate career!
How do you maintain your perspective and motivation? How do you remember and celebrate your small victories?
What have you accomplished this summer- big or small? Share in the comments so we can celebrate with you!
FY19 Graduate Member Coordinator Elect