In a world where billionaires launching into space becomes the bar for “big achievements,” our everyday small wins can seem like they’re not even in the same room, or even seated at the same table.
It doesn't help that women often stumble over the "broken rung" mid-way up the ladder. For every 100 men promoted, only 72 women see their first promotion (and the numbers are lesser for women of color). When we put in double the work for the same results, it's easy for large, hard-to-reach goals to eclipse small wins.
But small wins are so important to your happiness and development. You know what matters — acing a presentation, initiating an uncomfortable conversation, finally writing after suffering from writer's block (I'm with you on this one). Wins look different for everyone and any progress is good progress. A series of smart choices and small wins compound into radical changes over time.
I spoke to some boss women to round up seven small career successes you should always celebrate.
1. Helping a struggling colleague.
Workplaces give us many opportunities to lend a helping hand, but sometimes we're too caught up in our silos to act. Megan Ayala, fitness and health expert, says:
"If a struggling colleague trusts you enough to open up and ask for help, then that means you are doing something right. Help them accordingly and celebrate this little work win!"
2. Asking for a raise or compensation for extra work.
Some professionals believe there’s disparity around pay raises because women simply don't ask for them. But a 2018 study asserted that women do ask for raises as often as men do — we're just more likely to be turned down.
So if you ask for a raise or rightful compensation for extra work, celebrate that, regardless of the outcome. Not only are you holding your ground, but you're also showing people that women aren't afraid to ask for what they deserve — one request at a time.
Luz Donahue, an artist and freelance marketer, adds:
"When I'm able to step back, address the agreed-upon scope of a project and ask to be compensated when I'm being asked or expected to do additional labor — that feels like something very much worth celebrating every time."
3. Feeling confident about a new skill.
It's natural for anyone to feel overwhelmed when learning a new skill or trying something different.
LimeLoop's Kara Kreutzberg says she makes sure to celebrate when she realizes she’s “no longer overwhelmed by a certain project or frequent task the way [she] was previously.”
This is the conscious competence stage of learning a skill. You're still taking things slow, but you've shifted from not knowing you sucked at something, to knowing it, to doing something about it. When you reach the unconscious competence stage — where your skill becomes second nature to you — celebrate all over again.
4. Prioritizing your deliverables.
It's not easy to say no, but sometimes we must do it in the interest of our mental health — after all, nobody wants to take the fast lane to burnout.
Vanessa Santos, business and life coach, says that “saying no to an additional project and prioritizing your deliverables with your boss” is a win. You've unlocked a new level of clarity and set significant boundaries.
So the next time you prioritize your deliverables, compartmentalize your tasks, and say no to the extra workload, celebrate it!
5. Getting more done today than yesterday.
We can't have all great days. So, on days that you'd describe as "dull" or "stagnant,” moving something along is a worthy small win to celebrate.
Alexandra Chu, executive director of MedCreate, says:
“People often think big and fast leaps of breakthrough and improvement are necessary in business to feel successful. But little bits of progress here and there are just as rewarding, and they can boost your self-esteem massively.”
6. Initiating a critical — but uncomfortable — conversation.
Whether you're asking for a promotion, giving some contentious feedback or reporting harassment at work, discomfort can almost put you off the conversation entirely. Maureen Crawford Hentz, VP Human Resources and Pro Coach at Bravely, advises:
“The little flutter of nervousness [one feels] right before they do something new (speak up, stop the interrupters, defeat their Imposter Syndrome voice) is their brain recognizing they are about to change a habit that is no longer serving them.”
So if you initiate a tough conversation, celebrate it — because instead of wavering by the sidelines, you made a difficult choice.
7. Taking time off for yourself.
Even when we take time off, we tend to leave disclaimers: phone if you need me. Responding on Slack. Available on email.
In a world where we're connected to each other 24/7 and within electronic reach all the time, it's tough to completely alienate yourself from work for a week or a day — but it's so worth it. In setting strict boundaries around your day or week off work, you're showing a healthy respect for yourself and your needs. As Monica Pillai, Head of People Experience at Pause, says:
“We can only perform as well as we recover — else, we burn out.”
As much as it feels like it, life isn't all about work. Recognizing that — and taking time off to nourish what my therapist called “your other selves” — is a win that you absolutely must celebrate.
And we're just getting started. There are many more small wins to celebrate that stem from your unique choices, career goals, and circumstances.
Here's the bottom line: let's give ourselves time to celebrate the "in-between" moments. They take us closer to who we want to be but also emphasize who we already are. These moments will buoy you on the journey to those big wins!
What small wins have you been celebrating lately? Share in the comments so other Fairygodboss’ers can help celebrate you!
This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.
Sindhu Shivaprasad heads all things content strategy, ideation and execution for Pause, a time-off management tool by award-winning product consultancy Obvious. As a third-culture individual, she’s working to make copy and content more inclusive, diverse and respectful of individual nuances.
In the long term, she hopes to write an anthology of essays on topics that connect people through time and space. For now, she’s taking the first step through her newsletter, Kindred Spirits. You can reach out to her on Twitter and LinkedIn.