I have been reflecting lately on the kinds of things that bring a sense of accomplishment to me.
Yesterday I had a win at work – I reduced some unnecessary work that would have bogged down an implementation and which had a huge opportunity cost. I thought, “Score!” and then Pitbull’s Fireball came on Pandora and I spent seven minutes dancing around the apartment like a lunatic in celebration.
In the Strengthsfinder definitions, I rate really high in the Achiever category. That doesn’t meant that I am the kind of achiever who closes multi-million dollar deals, wears fancy suits, and drives a fast car. I just feel like I have to Achieve something every single day. I have to feel like I have a Win.
That Win can be personal – I walked 10 miles each day last weekend, a personal triumph. That Win can be small – I celebrate finishing the laundry every week because I hate doing laundry. Or when my husband or I cook a new recipe from scratch, I open a bottle of wine to celebrate that accomplishment.
At work, it can sometimes be a little harder. There are days when I am so exhausted from fighting chaos that, when I reflect into my work diary, I can barely remember what I did that day, much less a Win. I don’t feel like I accomplished anything that made a difference. Checking stupid things off my everlasting to-do list isn’t enough to celebrate. Surviving to fight another day is the achievement.
And this is what I need to learn to celebrate.
I often react with puzzlement or a shrug when people praise my work because the things they praise comes so easily to me. Writing. Leading meetings. Getting people who are cross-purposes to communicate more effectively. Helping people organize their work. Helping people figure out how to negotiate scope, resources, timelines. These things come so naturally to me that I kinda shrug when people say, “That was an awesome meeting.” I like being told that my work was helpful to my colleagues but it doesn’t feel like work to me, so it doesn’t give me a sense of accomplishment.
What does give me a sense of accomplishment? How about doing something I’ve never done before? Last year, I built a website. It was hard, it took waaaaaaay too long. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. Did I do anything with it once I built it? No. As far as I know, it has not had a single hit. Why did I build it? I felt like I wanted to learn something new, do something I hadn’t done before, something challenging to me, and I wanted to do it all by myself. And I did. A few of my friends looked at it and were impressed.
And I felt like a million bucks.
It felt like work because I was using muscles that I hadn’t used before.
It felt like an achievement.
So my challenge now is a) to recognize the skills I am using at work, the ones that people praise me for, are unique and valuable, and learn to take the use of those skills as a win and; b) to find things I can do outside work that challenges me, forces me to use new muscles so that I can feel that win at home, even when my work day win is just surviving the day.
What gives you a sense of accomplishment?