I am the type of person that tends to think “What’s next?” after reaching a goal. Even when I have great success in work or in my personal life, somehow my mind shifts to how I can sustain it, or what the next achievement or accomplishment will be.
I used to think that success by itself would automatically make me pause and reflect. But I now know that, at least for me, it needs to be a very conscious effort to take time to enjoy and celebrate progress and milestones.
I also now realize the importance of doing so. And I’m not alone.
This past weekend I flew to Atlanta for a last-minute trip, along with 6 of my college roommates, to surprise our friend who was graduating from his medical residency after 5 long years in the program. The surprise was orchestrated by our friend’s wife who knew that nothing would mean more to her husband than the chance to spend the weekend with his family and closest friends. And we all made the trip from various locations around the country (SF, LA, Boston, NY, & Baltimore) for a weekend filled with catching up, celebrating, and reliving the old days (and perhaps a bit too much food and drink).
And it worked. I’ll spare you all the details of the weekend, but will share just this quick passage from a thank you email our friend sent right afterwards. He said, “I don’t think I have ever been that surprised! I had a great time the whole weekend and it serves as a reminder how much I want to make it a priority of mine to find time for us all to get together.”
This email is just a small example of the incredible number of benefits that come when we take the time to celebrate. Celebrations actually boost our well-being — and this is true for major milestones and daily wins alike.
One of the main reasons celebrating is so important is because it reflects an overall attitude of gratitude and enjoying what we have, instead of focusing on what we don’t have or only on what we want in the future.
According to research conducted by Professors Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough (University of California Davis and University of Miami, respectively), people who cultivate a daily attitude of celebration and gratitude have more energy, less stress and anxiety, are more likely to help others, exercise more frequently, sleep better, have improved physical health, and actually make greater progress toward achieving personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based). And it doesn’t take great effort to get these results — these benefits were reported by people who simply made a weekly list of things for which they were grateful.
Celebrations of milestones and goals achieved provide us the opportunity to take a much-needed break, to reset, and then to set even bigger and bolder targets. Additionally, celebrations let us reflect on the right path forward before setting out on it, and to build confidence for the future by acknowledging what we’ve been able to achieve in the past.
Celebration is important not only for individuals, but also for teams.
In fact, the best leaders in business make sure to take time to celebrate their teams’ successes before delivering the next assignment. As James Kouzes and Barry Posner say in their comprehensive book about leadership, The Leadership Challenge, “Exemplary leaders know that promoting a culture of celebration fuels the sense of unity essential for retaining and motivating today’s workforce.”
Kouzes and Posner stress time and again in their book that celebrations are critical to teamwork, trust, and shared values in an organization, and in order to create an environment of energy, rejuvenation, and fun. The proof is in the results — the book’s research shows that “People who work for leaders who more frequently celebrate rate their leaders’ effectiveness nearly one-third higher compared to those who say their leaders celebrate less.”
But perhaps David Campbell, former senior fellow with the Center for Creative Leadership, said it best: “Celebrations are the punctuation marks that make sense of the passage of time; without them, there are no beginnings and no endings. Life becomes an endless series of Wednesdays.”
So unless you live for Wednesdays, make it a point to put celebrations on the calendar, and to get together for some fun with colleagues, family, and friends. Celebrations give us something to look forward to as well as to appreciate what we have.
Besides, who doesn’t love the host of a good party?! Which brings us back to the beginning and the title of this post — Throw a party!