Did you know that acknowledging yourself for current and recent work can keep you motivated? Appreciating your own good work is an important segment of the achievement cycle.
The achievement cycle has 4 parts:
1) Identify a goal
2) Work toward the goal (this usually takes the most time)
3) Reach the goal
4) Acknowledge, celebrate, and/or recover (we typically skip over this part)
Upon completing step 4, you can start over with another goal. All four steps are essential. We’re trained and conditioned to do the first three, but not the fourth, yet the final step is absolutely critical. It’s not until you adequately celebrate and/or recover from one cycle that you are really ready to start the next one with full energy.
I’m not suggesting that you spend a week in Maui every time you write a good proposal. Or that you take out a full page ad in the NY Times announcing that you finished your project on time and under budget. But I am saying that you’ll need to really fulfill Step 4 before you are truly available for your next project.
I first wrote about this in 2006, right after submitting my application for my Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential, which had been a major accomplishment and a huge amount of work. Here’s what I wrote then: “When I met my deadline last month, I expected to take the weekend off and return to work-as-usual on Monday. In fact, I did return to working with clients with the pleasure and enthusiasm I always feel for it. But for other parts of my work, such as marketing, website development, and writing, which are harder and less enjoyable kinds of work for me, I had no energy whatsoever: no enthusiasm, no interest, no willingness, no nothing!” Has this ever happened to you?
Since I regularly teach the achievement cycle to clients, I checked to see if I had adequately worked Step 4. I had taken a weekend off and considered that adequate recovery time. I had shared with my closest people that I had sent off the application and considered that adequate acknowledgement. I certainly had a lighter heart.
But when I experienced being highly unmotivated that Monday morning, I was puzzled. And irritated. I wanted my MoJo back! “What more do you need?” I asked myself. “What is the big deal?” Sound familiar? I eventually figured it out. I had only paid lip service to Step 4. I had not gotten to the heart of the matter, which was a much more full, frank, and intimately detailed self-acknowledgment. Taking credit for “doing a lot of work” and essentially giving myself a high five just wasn’t cutting it.
At the risk of boring you to tears, here are some examples of the intimate level of acknowledgement that made a difference for me. Notice how granular these items are, as compared to “Job well done! Congrats!” Here are some of the things I needed to self-acknowledge for:
- I worked longer hours than usual, over most of the last 6 weeks, often late into the night, many nights, past where I normally say “enough” and go to bed. At those moments when I really wanted to stop, I hung in and pushed farther and longer. It was much more work than I expected but I just stayed on it.
- I stretched way out of my comfort zone, asking past clients and other coaches for their permission and help, respectively. I repeatedly stretched in this way, slowly gathering the permissions and recommendations I needed.
- I brought forth a bigger vision of myself as someone worthy of this advanced credential. When my doubts and fears came up, I stood my ground and held on to this bigger vision.
- I stayed focused on and committed to this project until it was finished, often saying no to other things that were hard to say no to. But that’s what it took — a lot of saying no to other things in order to keep saying yes to this project until it was finished.
The fuller acknowledgement I was able to give myself over the next few days made the difference for me. Only then was I able to fully get back to work.
It’s not that these feats were in any way extraordinary. They weren’t. But my inner worker bee (drone, believer, marathon runner, pioneer, warrior) needed to be witnessed and appreciated for the many ways she delivered. Have you ever worked for a relentless boss who never said thank you? And never even noticed the many ways you went the extra mile? How motivating was that? So be your own perfect boss: notice and appreciate all the ways you stretched and delivered for this project.
If you sometimes feel under-energized or under-motivated for projects you are truly committed to, you may be habitually falling short on Step 4 of the achievement cycle. Doing Step 4 increases your productivity because it restores your motivation. The following steps can help:
- NOTICE when you complete a project or reach a milestone. Many people ignore the completion threshold and move seamlessly, even unconsciously right on to the next task. This is a mistake! Train yourself to NOTICE completions.
- Take a moment to recognize the completion. Breathe.
- Start the process of mentally acknowledging the ways you delivered, particularly the most solitary and challenging ways.
- Keep adding to this list (mental, written, whatever works) until all your effort feels recognized. It may take a few days.
- Don’t share these self-acknowledgements with anyone. Like tender shoots, they are easily trampled by others with a different sensibility. Protect these “thank-you’s” by keeping them to yourself or sharing them only with people who really understand and support where you’re coming from and why you’re doing this.
Your efforts do not need to be heroic or world-class to deserve your recognition. In fact, your most humble efforts may be the ones most in need of acknowledgement. Be ready for your next big goal by completing the Achievement Cycle for your last big goal.
My most recent big goal was the renovation of my website. (If you haven’t visited my website in a while, please stop in!) I can see now that I haven’t adequately acknowledged my role in that work. I commit to remembering what it required of me, and appreciating myself for doing that — this week.
Do you need to be acknowledged for a job well done? Can I help you with that?
What’s your experience with this dynamic? Leave a comment here.