Celebrate Those Tiny Islands of Success

September 2020

Photograph: Getty Images

I’m reluctant to start this blog without acknowledging the dire straits the world’s societies, economies and environments are in, but that’s the overarching reality to our daily lives. In these emotionally challenging times, there are no sweeping wins to laud, little sense of true contentment, no knowledge that fairness is at play … humming along as it could and should. It’s more a time to learn to revel in the small successes—both global and in your own personal sphere.

Years ago, my experience of raising a child with learning challenges taught me to embrace the smallest wins … everything from my child’s ability to master tying shoes well beyond the average age to receiving a passing grade in any math class. (As an adult, he still ties his shoes by starting with two looping bunny-ears, but he can also drive tractor trailers, semi-trucks, dump trucks, and do so much more.) As a parent of a learning-disabled child, I had to adjust my expectations, practice great patience and understanding, accept my child’s capacity and timing for learning, and heed the sage advice of his grade school teacher: “Celebrate the tiny islands of success.” 

These lessons have helped me navigate today’s trying times, and these three approaches may help you too.

Continue to set the bar high—for you. Setting and failing to meet ambitious goals can damage self-esteem, so be realistic in what you want to achieve. With an end date in mind, chunk out your big objective into smaller, short-term milestones. At Twirling Tiger Media, this is part of our business process. You’ll be encouraged by your progress when practicing this process in both your work and personal life.

Remember to acknowledge the big and small wins. Hooray … our company won four industry awards this summer for our recent work; we signed a new two-year contact with a long-term client; I am packing up my current home to move to another by year’s end; my husband met his goal of shedding a few pounds; I carve out time for a clarity walk a few mornings each week; and through lots of training, my dog has learned to settle himself (not pester me) while I work at home. All of these achievements required management, focus and work. It’s easy to be overwhelmed; but, pause to acknowledge these big and small wins for yourself and your peers because it surely feels good when you do.  

Let humor in. Conflicts, stressful situations and disappointments can benefit from a smile and laughter. According to Psychology Today, “Humor can be a buffer from the negative effects of all the stress we are under. Laughter has been shown to strengthen our immune system, improve alertness, increase endorphin levels, lower blood pressure, increase the production of t-cells, and help the pituitary gland release its own suppressing opiates. Laughter increases our intake of oxygen-rich air. It is also a release for pent-up tension. That is a lot for such a simple behavior.” I recently came across a meme that said, “As we continue to isolate ourselves during the pandemic, we will all master the art of folding fitted sheets.” For that meme, I gave myself permission to experience laughter.

Stay well.

—Maureen Joyce