The Power of Small Wins: Achieving Success One Step at a Time

It’s easy to look at someone successful and forget all the hard work that has led to where they are. We usually only see a few large wins as the cause for the success. In reality, it’s the result of thousands upon thousands of small wins. Once we realize this, we can begin to realize that we can do it too.

Let’s have a look at what small wins are, why they matter, and how you can use them to reach your goals.

A sum up of a post about small wins
The power of small wins

What are small wins?

Small wins are small victories that align with your intentions. They happen every time you do something small that brings you closer to your goals. They can be related to habits, physical performance, goals, and more. Every time you do something that brings you closer to becoming who you want to be, it’s a small win. It’s a cause for celebration.

Small wins are an important factor in any success, but they’re easy to overlook, especially if you have a tendency to perfectionism.

Examples of small wins

Small wins aren’t much different from large victories. The only difference is the size and impact of the success. Here are a few examples of what a small win can look like.

  • Going to the gym
  • Picking the healthy option when eating out
  • Working on your business
  • Saving instead of spending mindlessly
  • Reading
  • Getting up when your alarm rings
  • Doing the thing you said you would
  • Every time you do/avoid a habit you’ve been working on
  • And much more

How a small win looks in your life is up to you and your goals. As long as it brings you closer to your goals, and especially if it was something difficult, it’s considered a small win.

Related: How to accumulate successes with the 2-minute rule

Why do small wins matter?

A small win doesn’t have much impact on you or your life when viewed in isolation. So why does it matter?

Let’s have a look at 5 reasons why small wins deserve your attention.

Every big achievement is the result of many small wins

Going to the gym once, working on your business for 30 minutes, or eating an apple instead of a cookie doesn’t do much. The small win might have provided you with a small satisfaction, but not much else.

Everyone who has achieved something extraordinary has cultivated the power of small wins. The bodybuilder has accumulated thousands, if not millions, with years of hitting the gym and eating well. So have the businessman, the successful student, and all the other successes you’ve heard about.

Every success is many small wins accumulated. The only difference between where you are now and where you want to be is an unknown number of small wins.

Small wins indicate progress

Most things in life are two steps forward and one step back. When you’re moving forward, it’s usually easy to measure progress. You’re losing weight, can lift heavier, run longer, have more sales, or get a better grade. Even if you can’t measure your progress, you’ll feel better during this period.

But when you inevitably have a period of regression, it sees it might seem like there is no progress at all. But that’s not true. These periods are hard. So if you continue to show up, work hard, and not allow yourself to give up, you’re winning. Every time you show up during a difficult time, you’re taking a win.

When times are good, the small wins will be obvious. But it’s when times are tough, that the small wins can keep you going. It’s where they matter the most.

Small wins can increase self-confidence and self-esteem

If you remember to enjoy your small wins, you can use them to build strong self-confidence and self-esteem.

Self-confidence is your trust in yourself. It’s the belief that you’ll be able to show up and do what you have to. When you accumulate small wins, you prove to yourself that you’re able to show up consistently and do the hard thing. The more you do this, the more sure you’ll be in your ability to be there for yourself.

Self-esteem is how you view your worth. It’s the belief that you are good enough and worthy. When you accumulate small wins and enjoy them, you’ll begin to feel a sense of pride. Over time, you’ll realize that you can do good work. That you are worthy of the things you want.

Small wins can keep you focused

Most goals take a long time to accomplish. Getting there requires time, lots of hard work, and it’ll probably take longer than you imagined. It’s easy to get lost somewhere along the way.

It’s easy to lose focus when you forget about the small wins. Without them, the process won’t be enjoyable, and there’s nothing to celebrate for a long time. The longer this goes on, the more likely you’ll lose focus.

When you enjoy the small wins, the process becomes easier. There’ll be many small things to celebrate. It’ll be easier to stay focused when you look at small milestones, instead of one large goal.

Small wins can make you unstoppable

Small wins can make you feel unstoppable. Gaining one victory will make you crave the next and then the next. You want to continue to feel the satisfaction of being successful, so you’ll continue to work for that feeling.

The addiction to success, combined with the boosted self-esteem, and increased focus, can make you unstoppable. The more small wins you accumulate, the easier it’ll be to continue towards your goals.

How to reach your goals with small wins

Now that we have looked into why small wins are important, we can discover how you can use them to reach your goals. Let’s have a look at 7 things you can do to become successful using small wins.

Related: Gather small wins with the 5-minute rule

Start with a plan

If you are trying to accomplish something but don’t have a plan, you’re making things difficult for yourself. And the bigger your goals are, the more you need a plan to reach them.

Having a plan makes it possible to track progress, set milestones, stay focused, keep a good perspective, and have more opportunities to celebrate small wins. It gives you something to rely on when you face difficulties. For many, a plan is what keeps them working in the face of adversity.

Your plan might not be 100% accurate. That’s okay. A plan rarely is. It’s okay to change things along the way.

There are several ways to create a good plan. One of them is with a goal journal.

Related: How to form good habits

Keep track of progress

To reach a goal, you’ll have to move from one place to another. This rarely happens in one step but with several tiny improvements over a long period. And while these small changes might not feel like much, you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere without them.

Tracking your progress is a great tool to help you with continuous progression. Every time you’ve improved, you get a small win. Let yourself enjoy the feeling, and celebrate when you can.

The feeling of a small win can be addictive. It’ll help you stay focused and motivated. It’ll help you to believe in yourself and continue pushing to reach your goals.

Related: Increase productivity with a productivity journal

Set milestones and smaller goals.

Create milestones and smaller goals in your plan. The smaller goals you can create and feel genuinely excited about, the better.

With a regular goal, you’ll have one big success. One target that you work towards, and nothing else. But when you set many smaller goals, you’ll have more opportunities to feel successful. Instead of getting one big win, you’ll get several smaller ones. The feeling of these small wins might not be as good as the big one, but they’ll be better than nothing.

It’ll be easier to push yourself to reach the next goal when the timeframe between now and success is reduced. But be careful you don’t push yourself so hard to reach one, that you switch off immediately after.

Celebrate the small wins

You place more value on the small wins when you remember to celebrate them. Depending on who you are and your situation, you might find different celebrations better than others. Here are 3 ways you can celebrate the small wins.

Track progress

Tracking progress can, in itself, work as a reward. The mental boost you might get from seeing improvement can be enough celebration of a small win.

Reward yourself

When you reward yourself after something difficult, you’ll slowly begin to associate the reward with the behavior. You might reward your small win with 5 minutes of sitting quietly, a small snack, a habit tracker, or something small you enjoy.

Remember, your celebration of a small win shouldn’t harm more than the work did good. You won’t lose weight if you celebrate a day of successfully dieting with a large cookie.

Take a moment to acknowledge yourself  

Most people are self-critical. They rarely take a moment to acknowledge themselves or the work they do. That’s why this is such an effective celebration.

You can celebrate your small win by telling yourself that you did good. That you recognize that it wasn’t easy, but that you did it anyway. Exactly what you tell yourself is up to you, but be positive. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a celebration.

Negative self-talk might be deeply rooted in you if you suffer from low self-esteem, a mental disorder, or have experienced trauma. If so, this approach might be difficult.

Aim for good enough, not perfect

We will never be perfect. Neither will our work or the process of working towards a goal. The process will never be linear, and we’ll move back and forth between progression and regression. Perfection isn’t realistic, so we must aim for good enough instead.

When you accept this, everything will be much easier. You won’t be as easily discouraged by setbacks, and successes will feel more powerful. When you don’t find fault in everything you do, you’ll be able to celebrate the small wins more often and feel better about yourself.

Related: Why missing a day won’t destroy your progress

Use a keystone habit

Keystone habits are powerful habits. They cause ripples across your life which can break and form new habits. These habits are what shape your identity. This makes them crucial for long-lasting change.

Some people get far by starting with the sole goal of building one of these habits. Here are a few examples of possible keystone habits:

All of these habits can have a big impact on your life. They’ll give you more energy, increase productivity, and much more.

For most, the most influential keystone habit is working out. Whether you hit the gym, go for a run, bike, play football, or something else doesn’t matter. Be regularly physically active, and most other things in life will be easier.

Related: Best habits for self-improvement

Be patient

Be patient. Doing anything meaningful takes time, and you won’t necessarily get to the end faster by trying to do more. There is no shortcut to success. So you might as well enjoy the process and celebrate the small wins.

Finishing thoughts

You get a small win every time you do something that brings you closer to reaching a goal. The more difficult the behavior, the bigger the win. You’ll increase motivation, self-esteem, stay focused, and increase the chances of reaching your goals when you celebrate the small wins.

These small victories might not seem like much. But every big achievement has been accomplished by accumulating many small wins over time.

What to read about next:


Keystone habits

Goal journal