Success is Paved with Small Wins

successSuccess is Often Found in the Little Wins of Life

Many people look at their life and believe they have missed success. They think success means you’ve accomplished something major in your life such as being president or gaining fame. They forget that even the President of the United States didn’t get where he or, someday she, was all at once. There were steps along the way. Each little step, no matter how small, moved the successful person forward.

Social scientists and business experts agree that the successful person needs and is encouraged by the small wins. These wins provide major inspiration along the journey. The wins boost confidence and incorporate the winning attitude.

Success is a by-product of what most people want in life, happiness. Is it the ultimate goal, the one that looks like the greatest achievement, which makes a person happiest? Researchers at Harvard Business School found out that the ultimate goal wasn’t what produced the greatest happiness. Are you ready for what did?

Daily progress, the small everyday accomplishments on meaningful work brought the greatest amount of happiness and generated the most productivity.

They also discovered there was a commonalities which moved a person step-by-step to success. Let’s call this the formula of Small Wins to Success. Let’s look at the general principles behind the Small Wins.

General Principles Behind Small Wins

BR1105_500The Harvard researchers discovered there were two types of actions which led to the Small Wins to Success.

  1. Create catalysts. Catalysts are behaviors or actions which move you forward. I’m sure you are familiar with most if not all of them: Set specific goals (more about this below), manage your time and resources, and practice direct and open communications.
  2. Find nourishers. I’ve been working with a coach who is assisting me in clarifying my values and goals in all areas of life. One of the areas is in relationships. We all need to be surrounded by up-beat and supportive friends and colleagues who believe in us, give constructive feedback, validate us and give us support. You may find these supportive people in various groups ranging from professional organizations, a faith community or other groups. You want to be sure you friends and family are nourishers. If they’re not, you have some difficult choices to make.

Let me emphasize that catalysts are behaviors you do. Nourishers are those you surround yourself with. You can control your behaviors and you have a tremendous amount of control over who surrounds you.

Here are some catalyst behaviors:

  1. Set intermediate goals. You know about ultimate goals. Let’s say you want get out of debt. That’s you’re ultimate goal. The intermediate goals will get you going and give you a sense of success. Paying of one credit card is an intermediate goal. It feels great when you look at that credit card statement and it says “0”. Then you go onto paying off the next card.  One of the goals could be a particular behavior change such as making dinner rather than going out for dinner.
  2. Learn from back steps. You know the expression “Two steps forward, one step back.” Learn from those backsteps. Don’t let them discourage you. There will be backsteps. Accept them and move on.
  3. Keep a Record. I was going to write “Keep a Journal” but I’m not good at that. I love to write but not in journals. Keeping a record of successes can be valuable. Get a calendar just for successes. It can be one of those small pocket calendars. Record your successes for the day. “I didn’t eat that cookie I really wanted to.” “I paid off the credit card.” “I looked at flowers instead of moping.”

Small Wins to Success in Life

Let’s look at five basic areas of life: Health, Relationships, Business, Money, Well-Being


What is your overall and specific goal for your health? We all have the same basic goal of wonderful health but what do you specifically need to do?

Here are small wins:

  1. Eat more vegetables. You might be someone who eats few vegetables unless they’re fried. A small win is adding a serving of vegetables every day to your food plan. Once you have that down add another serving. Do this gradually.  
  2. Eliminate junk food. Focus on one junk food to eliminate every month. Celebrate that win. Then eliminate another one. Keep going until you have all junk food out of your life.
  3. Sleep regularly. You need sleep. If you’re not getting enough because you don’t go to bed early enough begin moving towards an earlier bed time. You might want to begin with 30 minutes earlier and add an additional 30 minutes earlier until you are at your ideal time.
  4. Exercise for 5 minutes. I’m not a big fan of exercise but I know I need to do it. You can begin with 5 minutes of exercise a day. You can walk, dance, garden or something else. Just add 5 minutes.


  1. Complement Someone. Look for something nice to say to someone in your life.
  2. Choose a happy thought. Make it a point to have a happy thought or memory about someone.
  3. Say “Hi” to a stranger. If you’ve never done this before just say hello to someone who catches your eye.
  4. Surprise your spouse/partner. Do something fun and unexpected… or that one thing s/he’s been asking you to do.


  1. Put a dollar a day into a jar. Just save $1 per day and leave it there.
  2. Choose not to buy something you want to buy. Next time you pull your wallet out ask, “Will I starve, be naked, or someone else go naked if I don’t get this?”


Your “business” may be a job that pays money, a volunteer activity, or caring for your family.

  1. If you want a change, decide how. I know this sounds huge, but begin to focus in small ways on the change you’d like to make. Begin by imagining yourself in different situations.
  2. Do first what you don’t like.  That’s self-explanatory. Get it out of the way or find someone else to do it.


Spirituality and your general sense of who you are is in this category.

  1. Meditate 5 minutes a day. Block out 5 minutes and allow yourself to be. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. That’s one of the simplest ways to get started with meditation.
  2. Work with a healer, therapist or coach. If you need help getting your mind straight, find someone to help you. This is a “nourisher,” someone who can assist you along the way.

The major successes in life are paved with small wins. Cultivate those wins and celebrate them.

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