Growing up, we had lots of amazing times as kids.
Playing sports (mainly baseball), building bike jumps in the lot next to our house, learning new things at school, growing up was a blast. But one thing I was recently thinking about that almost all of us probably did as kids a heck of a lot better than we do now is celebrate.
I remember when we came from behind to win a game on the final at bat in little league, and the celebration after the game was like we just won the World Series… and it was just a regular season game.
Or after finally landing on the “big” bike jump after the 10th attempt our voices boomed with excitement and high-fives were thrown around like we were Evil Knievel jumping the fountain in Vegas.
We celebrated when we did something cool. Even the little stuff.
When we were kids, it’s just what you did. Celebrating those little wins is like a mental release and “atta boy / girl” that almost by itself is reward enough for doing something cool.
But somewhere along the way in life I started to get stuck on the goal and forgot about the most fun part of all, the celebration.
I can remember after I started my first company I had a goal sheet plastered on my living room wall. It detailed out my next income goal (at that time it was just enough to cover the bills, nothing big), health goal, spiritual, education, relationship… you get the idea.
And in my mind, I just KNEW that once I hit those goals… life would be good.
“Man, once I hit $4k/mo in income I’ll be good”.
The funny thing is, fast forward several years and I caught myself saying similar things about goals 10x higher, “Once I get to X, then life will be amazing”. Heck, I even did that last year about hitting the magical 7 figures per year number with Carrot our local software startup, before I caught myself and realized how silly it is to never be happy even for a moment with where you currently are.
I’d reach the goal, sail right past, and set my sights to the next one.
No celebration. Not even a hint of a pause. My 12 year old self would have given up a long time ago if there wasn’t that mental stimulation even the tiniest celebrations can give our minds.
On the scientific side of things, there’s a chemical in our brains called dopamine. Author Debbie Hampton says “Dopamine motivates you to take action and encourages the persistence required to meet your needs, seek reward, or approach a goal – whether it’s a college degree, a sugar fix, the next level in a video game, or money to pay the bills. The anticipation of the reward is actually what triggers a dopamine good feeling in your brain causing it to release the energy you need to move towards the reward. Then, you get another pleasure hit when you successfully meet the need.”
But when we get in patterns of always focusing on the goal, and moving that goal once we reach it without celebrating the heck out of that win, we miss those little dopamine baths in our brains… and also miss the real reason most of us become entrepreneurs in the first place. Happiness (freedom and impact too, but happiness is a biggie!).
I’ve been better at celebrating my successes lately than in years past, but am still working on it. So if you have a goal you just reached, lets celebrate the heck out of that win! Even if it’s just plastering a big ol’ smile on your face and toasting over a cold one with friends or family, celebrate it. Science says it’s a surefire way to increase your motivation, happiness, and energy to hit that next goal even harder.