Why Celebrating Small Wins Can Help You Experience Greater Joy


When’s the last time you gave yourself a proverbial high five?

For most of us, it’s hard to consider those small accomplishments we achieve day in and day out much of a success, but the truth is that it’s those seemingly small successes that enable us to achieve our bigger goals – and experience greater joy along the way.


The Science Behind Small Victories

Science shows us that when we succeed, the brain releases dopamine into its reward pathway, signaling positive emotions and essentially reinforcing the behavior. The best part? It doesn’t matter how big or small the perceived victory is – we just have to process the result as a positive outcome.

It’s this physiological phenomenon that both enhances our ability to focus and inspires us to repeat the activity that first triggered the response. In fact, as we continue to experience success, the brain cascades a release of dopamine that triggers a cyclical effect of feel-good neurotransmitters.  

Understanding how our neural pathways respond to our achievements is powerful—especially when we recognize the emotional and physical benefits of increased dopamine levels in the body.

Because the more dopamine we have in our system? The better we feel.


The Physical, Mental, and Emotional Benefits of Dopamine

As part of the brain’s reward pathway, the repeated release of dopamine amplifies our positive emotions and cultivates a healthy sense of self-satisfaction. Higher levels of dopamine can enhance our self-confidence, enabling us to reach a little higher and step more boldly toward our goals.

And if we focus on achieving small goals that ultimately lead us to more monumental accomplishments, we recognize our progress and feel connected to a greater sense of purpose – creating a positive feedback loop that propels us toward success.  


How to Honor Small Wins Daily

While celebrating small wins may initially trigger an inward eye roll or sigh of annoyance, it’s important to recognize how even the smallest of successes contributes to your bigger picture. Incorporating a few simple practices into your regular routine can help shift your perspective around success and intentionally develop an appreciation for how far you’ve come.

Keep a journal. Carving out just 10 minutes each day to reflect on your small victories can have monumental effects on your perception and the way you choose to show up in the world. Even if it’s not a daily practice, start to note the milestones you achieve that comprise a bigger goal. As you begin to document your success story, you’ll have a firm foundation to build upon as you continue to grow and accomplish your seemingly impossible aspirations.

I keep a journal of all the small milestones I’ve accomplished in my personal journey, and it serves as a powerful reminder of both my progress and my purpose whenever I experience self-doubt or imposter syndrome. Because whether you’re at the top of your field or only just beginning, self-doubt creeps up for all of us – and it’s easier to shake when we’ve got a long list of all the reasons why we’re on the right path.

Identify a daily highlight. Even if it feels that you haven’t accomplished much of anything, focusing on at least one positive aspect of your day can cultivate a sense of gratitude. Shifting your focus to reflect optimistically on the day’s events can shift your entire mood and inspire you to take action you might have forgone otherwise.

Lift each other up. While positive self-talk is critical for empowerment, lifting others up is equally important for creating joy in your own life as well as the lives of others. Supporting each other means sharing our small victories with friends and loved ones – and encouraging them to do the same. When we celebrate each other in a way that feels authentic, we create a world where everyone feels empowered and anything is possible.

So find joy in your journey and let go of any preconceived notions about what “success” looks like. Start celebrating exactly where you are today – because you’ve come a lot farther than you think.

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Looking for more like this? Download my Daily Journal Prompts: Intro Guide to Reflection + Introspection.