How big does a win need to be before we celebrate it? Does a promotion count? A birthday? A workout? Drinking a glass of water? The answer is that a victory of any size can be celebrated as a win—so long as it’s perceived as one. The kicker is that we’re not innately wired to think this way.
Typically our brains are wired to remember negative experiences, which helps us avoid them in the future. This was a useful survival tool for our evolutionary predecessors to avoid eating poisonous berries, getting attacked by dangerous animals, or losing excessive resources to others. However, there is a downside to this evolutionary legacy—the natural fixation on negative experiences makes it challenging to see the positives in life. This leads to detrimental effects on motivation, happiness, and self-efficacy (your perception of your ability to handle a challenging or new situation).
Harness neuroplasticity to improve your mindset
Luckily our brains also have something called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the capacity for our brains to adapt and change its learned purposes. An example of this is in the case of people who have suffered a stroke.
When someone suffers a stroke, part of their brain died, due to a lack of blood supply. With rehabilitation, other parts of the brain can be trained to learn new functions, which compensates for the part of the brain that died. This plasticity also allows various psychological therapies to change people’s perspectives and behaviors. By shifting our mindset and perspective to recognize victories in small, everyday tasks, our brains adapt to better seek out the positives in our experiences.1
The research on celebrating wins
Research supports the capacity of our brains to be able to adopt a more positive paradigm . When finding the wins in our journeys (in fitness or otherwise in life), we are training our brains to become radars for wins. Our brains will begin to seek out positive events in our experiences, which will generate more positivity [2, 3]. When we see the wins in our accomplishments, we become more optimistic about the expected outcomes of our actions. This, in turn, increases our belief in ourselves and our abilities, and ultimately raises our overall happiness.
Happiness is just the start of benefits that come with celebrating wins. Celebration improves your capacity to solve problems, increases attentiveness, increases productivity , and improves motivation .
How does celebrating wins increase motivation? When we focus on the present we can identify victories easier, and we hit out brains and bodies with dopamine and endorphins.4 This helps us remember the event leading to our reward(the little win), as well as wanting to achieve again (more winning!).
Encouraging clients to celebrate the wins
How do we encourage our clients to train their brains to identify and acknowledge wins? Like most habits, it’s most effective to start small. Identify their long-term goals, and help them highlight the small victories they need to lead them there. You might need to take the lead and act as a role model for clients who lack an internal focus or struggle with negative self-talk.
It may be helpful to get an individual like this into a group setting. Group members can demonstrate what wins look like and how to learn from failure. Edison claimed to have discovered 10,000 ways not to build a lightbulb before he actually discovered how.
With an app like Trainerize, you can provide clients with the support they need to implement small-win celebrations. The habit tracking feature can lead daily habit of thinking positively, while the in-app messaging system allows your client to track their wins, kind of like a diary or journal, which allows you to keep them accountable and share in their wins. Communication will reinforce the positive effects of celebrating wins. Additionally, the groups feature allows trainers to have their clients create a culture of win seeking—your clients will start helping each other find and celebrate their wins!
Celebrating the wins in a nutshell:
- Celebrating wins helps shift one’s mindset and perspective to be more optimistic, motivated, and happy.
- Neuroplasticity allows the brain to be trained to easily seek out wins.
- Win-seeking keeps people motivated through behavior change.
- Habit tracking, social support, and shared win tracking is a way the Trainerize app can help trainers support their clients with celebrating wins.
- Shaffer, Joyce. (2012). Neuroplasticity and Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice: A Review for Combined Benefits Available for download at SciRP.org. Psychology. 3. 1110-1115. 10.4236/psych.2012.312A164.
- Eric L.GarlandaBarbaraFredricksonbAnn M.KringcDavid P.JohnsonbPiper S.MeyerbDavid L.Pennb. Upward spirals of positive emotions counter downward spirals of negativity: Insights from the broaden-and-build theory and affective neuroscience on the treatment of emotion dysfunctions and deficits in psychopathology. (2010). Clinical Psychology Review. Volume 30, Issue 7. 849-864.