Recently – like the good little neurotic New Yorker I am – I was lolling around on a couch, complaining to my therapist.
“I just feel like I go and go and go,” I said, “and there’s no real end or beginning to any given period or project. It’s just ‘bam’ – one is done, and then another one begins.”
My rather nice therapist put down her rather nice pen on her rather nice paper and looked over her rather nice glasses at me.
“Well,” she said, “do you ever take time to celebrate?”
“Um.” I said, “I don’t really know what that means.”
“What do you do when you’re done with a project,” she said, “to mark its completion?”
“I say ‘yay’ and move on to the next thing?” I said.
… she rather nicely laughed at me.
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My therapist’s advice (which I will share with you for free, fellow freelancers) is that without concrete celebration rituals, we never take time to gain closure with projects – and even more importantly, we never honor our accomplishments.
It’s an old concept; it’s the origin of feast days that celebrated getting the harvest in, or festivals that brightened up the drudgery of a long winter. But in our fast-paced, hashtagged, full-inboxed world, it’s easy to skip over celebration in the interest of “efficiency”.
In any given day, how much time do you spend concentrating on what you need to do? How much energy do you expend on thinking about your failures? How often are you obsessing about how far behind you’ve fallen, and how far you still have to go? And then, really think about it: how much time do you spend celebrating your successes?
When we’re children, celebration markers are often built into our lives. You drew a nice picture, kiddo? Have a sticker! You ran that race? Here’s a ribbon!
When we become adults, it’s easy to skip over celebrating victories, especially minor ones: they can feel inconsequential when compared to a long list of to-dos. But when you don’t take the time to enjoy your triumphs, you send your subconscious a pernicious message: that enjoyable moments are less important than stressful ones. It can create a self-fulfilling feedback loop; you feel unsatisfied because you feel as if you haven’t reached your goals, and you never feel as if you reached your goals… because you don’t feel satisfied.
With this line of habitual thinking, who can help becoming Captain Stressball?
Since my therapist has pointed out my bad habit to me, I’ve tried to make more time to celebrate even small victories. I finished a blog post? Time to buy myself a coffee. I got that invoice out? Personal dance party. I finally made that phone call to a client? Slow, solemn fist pump in the air, followed by patting my own back.
It may seem silly, but allowing myself to acknowledge and enjoy “wins” has helped me to re-find the structure in my daily schedule – and lets me note accomplishments. That’s resulted in a happier, more fulfilling day-to-day work stream…
…which is really something to celebrate.
How do you celebrate your victories, my freelance brethren? DO you celebrate? Share your celebration rituals and other tips in the Freelance Lifestyle Hive!