Last week I took up the idea of how small wins can lead to big successes. When we allow ourselves to appreciate the everyday accomplishments and set ourselves up for regular achievements, we inevitably gain confidence in our abilities and build the motivation to continue challenging ourselves. Ignoring a win is like brushing off a compliment: it’s a missed opportunity and a waste of positive energy. That energy matters more than we think in our journeys. When we shift the pattern and begin seeing – and celebrating – our small wins, however, we learn to literally see ourselves as winners (this doesn’t come easily for everyone), and as psychological reason goes, winning begets more success.
What constitutes a “win”? That’s up to you. Above all, start where you need to start. If you’re just embarking on a major weight loss or health overhaul, maybe every good choice deserves to be written down. Later, when better decisions become built into your lifestyle, you can raise the bar.
You can approach small wins a number of ways. Some people might prefer more of a “task” route in which you’re attempting to see how consistent you can be with a new habit. This approach cultivates discipline and can be helpful in laying down new patterns in your lifestyle. Make a game of it – especially if you’re doing it as a family or with Primal friends. Assign points for each task and compare at the end of the week/month. (Feel free to start a thread on the forum for it!) If it’s just your own groovy self, consider doing a log to give each task concrete, visual recognition.
Another way of looking at it is meeting a certain benchmark. These might feel more gratifying because they’re occasional achievements and therefore feel “bigger.” Additionally, there are challenges or events for which participation itself is the accomplishment for most people. Finally, there are the gains you make doing the same activity over time. It’s all part of a personal journey, of course, but consider incorporating a little of each.
Regardless of what wins you favor, there’s one thing I definitely suggest. The idea here is to see each win as part of a successive and progressive chain, a means for continual – and often exponential – growth. Don’t just observe each win individually like an isolated occurrence. To put each in a grander context and to get the most mental mileage out of your wins, assemble them. Keeping an ongoing record (e.g. achievement journal, visual board, fill-in calendar) will help you appreciate your progress over time. When you’re having a crummy day and suffer from selective amnesia about any past self-esteem or positive choices, you’ll have a whole slew of wins to buoy you through the funk.
Now, a few ideas for small wins worth cheering over:
Stepping down a dose in your medication (or stopping it altogether).
It’s one of the things people celebrate the most because it’s such a tangible sign that they’re regaining their health and vitality again from the grip of disease. No matter how small the change in dose, commemorate it. It’s your body getting stronger (and maybe your bank account more flush again).
Fitting into a new size or style of clothing.
Though we may claim otherwise, I think just about all of us enjoy looking good. Despite any culturally imposed guilt, there’s nothing wrong with it when it dovetails with being healthy. Some people have clothes from previous years they’d love to get into again. Others look forward to enjoying shopping for something new that they wouldn’t have felt comfortable in before. Whatever the case, work it.
Meeting a Foodie Challenge: Try 10 new Primal foods this month.
Expand your Primal repertoire and enjoy the win simultaneously. The key here is preparation. (A sad truth: healthy foods are the perishable ones.) Have a couple recipes for each new food that genuinely appeal to you. Take pictures of each creation. The more variety you develop in your Primal Blueprint diet, the more likely you are to feel satisfied and stick with it. Mikey likes it!
Keeping up with the kids.
I can’t tell you how many times I hear this from folks who go Primal. Extra weight and poor fitness had held them back so long, they felt like they were stuck on the sidelines of big parenting moments. The first time you realize you were able to catch your child in a game of tag or run alongside her as she rode her bike – you’ll never forget it. Appreciate the occasion for the fitness progress it is and the parenting celebration. You’ve always loved your kids. It’s just amazing to be present to them in a new, invigorated way.
Making it through a holiday/event without chucking your intentions.
Cousin’s wedding coming up? Spring charity galas or office retreats? Don’t underestimate the “win” of sticking with your Primal priorities at events like these. Go with a plan and celebrate the strength of your strategy and resolve afterward.
Hosting your own holiday/event – on your own Primal terms.
Unless they’re born with a penchant for entertaining, most people take their time on this one. It’s not your typical newbie event, but once you get the gumption to set the Primal agenda, it might just become tradition. No, maybe it won’t be easy to convince your non-Primal relatives to forgo the conventional trimmings for the bigger holidays like Thanksgiving, but consider hosting one of the upcoming “grill-friendly” holidays like Memorial Day or 4th of July. Primal hosting might not benefit your health specifically, but think of it as inspiration – living your Primal lifestyle out loud.
Achieving a fitness challenge.
Some people challenge themselves to try a new machine or set of weights at the gym each week. For others, it might be to try three new classes in a season. Maybe you want to challenge yourself to get out of the gym and attempt three kinds of outdoor or at-home workouts in a month. While physical gains (e.g. upping our lifting weight or treadmill incline, stepper time) are genuine small wins themselves, don’t forget to challenge yourself toward variety.
Filling five (or ten!) hours of play each week.
I honestly can’t think of a better win. How many people can say they play that much on a regular basis? How do you think people would feel about their lives if they did? Sure, not every hour of a Saturday can be filled with the likes of Ultimate Frisbee. Better to spread it out anyway. Turn off the T.V. and play chess instead on a Tuesday night. Skip an unnecessary meeting and woodwork or paint instead. Be active, creative, spontaneous. Get out of the mindset that governs all the other hours of the week – for five hours a week. The result can be life-changing.
Participating in a large fitness event.
There’s something to having an event on the calendar to work toward. It’s concrete initiative and hoopla-filled achievement on the actual day. Maybe it’s a charity walk that’s 3 miles or 10 miles. Maybe it’s your first 5K race or marathon. Maybe it’s a hiking trip or a noncompetitive biking expedition (Someone told me recently he does Iowa’s RAGBRAI each year – shout out to the Midwesterners.) Whatever the event, there’s such an incredible vibe you get from being with the other participants and seeing the supporters. It’s one of those small wins with huge personal gain – far beyond the exercise benefit.
Achieving a major calendar milestone.
Six months Primal, ten years Primal, one week Primal. Doesn’t matter – celebrate it. Mark the occasion with some reflection, a massage, or just your favorite Primal dinner.
Attaining an outdoor adventure challenge.
Choose five outdoor adventures in your area that you enjoy doing or have always wanted to do that you will hit between now and the start of summer. Then choose five more. They can include everything from hiking your favorite park trail to climbing an area mountain, tubing or canoeing a given river to doing a full moon hike, biking the rounds of your city to exploring a new neighborhood on foot. Mix it up and invite friends along for the adventure.
Is that enough to get you started? What other small wins would you add to the list? What small wins would you like to enjoy in the coming months? Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a great end to your week.
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.