We all seem to be on board with the fact that kids respond to positive reinforcement as a method to inspire more good behavior? But, as adults, that just doesn’t seem to track as a viable methodology for ourselves.

Think about it.

Is it hard to give yourself a little credit for a small win? Does it feel silly to praise yourself for making progress on something that you should have already been doing? Well, you’re not alone. We have no trouble marking obvious milestone accomplishments in our lives with sometimes over-the-top fanfare, but here’s why it’s important not to skim over the little ones.

Making new habits starts with choices. You’ve likely heard that the art of “chunking” a larger goal into small steps, will give you a much greater chance of success. Well, it’s true. But if those little steps aren’t celebrated, then we’re less likely to stay on track, move forward to the next step, or repeat them.


Because our brains love a little positive reinforcement, so when we create a “yes! I rock!” response to each completed step, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, we’re rewiring our brain to do more of the same. 

So, how do you begin the habit of recognizing and calling out your smallest victories? 

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine.

-John Maxwell

Of course. Baby steps.

“Step one…CHECK!”

The first step is always the hardest one to take when making a behavior change. Give yourself a fighting chance by making it small and easily attainable. If your goal is to run a 5k in two years, you’re not gonna start tomorrow by running a mile from the jump. You’ll become sore, discouraged, and likely fill your mind with all the reasons why that was an absurd goal, to begin with.

Depending on your current fitness level, you might be coached to start by adding a one-minute jog into your daily walk every 5 minutes and gradually increase. That one-minute run is praiseworthy, so give yourself the high five and allow that warm glow to sink in so it can call in more of the same next time. 

Document and share

Why not do more to support that little victory? Another way to reinforce a win is to document it with some details. Having a Road to My 5k Calendar or a Self-Care Journal can serve as an emotional fist bump to each step you complete. 

Having someone that is “with you” on this journey can make completing a step very real and help to fire off those positive vibes. Sharing your accomplishments is a very tangible way to keep them framed as wins while applying another layer of accountability for yourself.

Cheer on someone else

Surrounding yourself with others that may be shooting for the same goal or make a similar change is very helpful. Community is now more important than ever, so being able to learn from others or even be an inspiration to them can give you an extra boost and motivation to do even more. Research shows that helping others with their emotions can help us regulate our own. So if we are bubbly cheerleaders for others’ achievements, big or small, we will reinforce the habit of cheering ourselves on. It’s a win-win.

While it may be unnatural at first to go all-in with your internal pep rally when accomplishing a small goal, it can serve you well by creating a desirable, positive rush and inspiring you to do more of the same. 

Can I get a “hell, yeah!”?