If there’s a young child in your life, I want you to try this experiment or do an observation (in a non-creepy way) of a healthy parent-child interaction.
EXPERIMENT: Watch the child do or say something that makes others laugh, smile, or offer a lot of positive reinforcement and celebration. Make note on whether or not the observed behavior is then repeated. Ponder why or why not.
What am I getting at here? In Lisa Nichols’ powerful book, Abundance Now, she uncovers a truth that shook me to my core: what gets celebrated, gets repeated. Let that soak in a little. What gets celebrated gets repeated. This means that it’s also okay for us to celebrate fellow adults that do and say healthy things that make others laugh and smile. When I run on the treadmill, I set mini-goals along the way. And every mile I run without lowering the pace, I raise my fists in the sky and cheer for myself–wildly–and in public. Seriously. Some might even call me a “spectacle” at the gym with all of the commotion that I make. And for some reason, it makes me excited to do the same thing again.
There are so many things that I do right every day. Things I do so well. Things, that when I reflect on where I’ve come from, I’m surprised to learn that I could be doing. For example, writing this blog post as a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering from my Stanford studio apartment, trust me, I’m still celebrating wildly, and so are my parents and friends.
Look, if you’re still finding it difficult to think of something you’ve done worth celebrating, let me see if I can help conjure some ideas. You woke up today. Wandered onto this blog post (which means you have a computer, internet access, and more importantly that you have good taste). That last part is cause for celebration alone. The time, concerted effort, exerted mental energy that it takes to have gotten to this place where you could afford these luxuries. You had to have done something right today to have gotten to this point.
Why wait for the full-ride scholarship to college to celebrate getting accepted? Why not celebrate getting a B- in your first quarter Linear Algebra class that snatched your sleep day after day? Don’t confuse celebrating what you’ve done with a celebration of mediocrity. Rather, I choose to see each day as a finite amount of energy. Everything you do: wake up, get dressed, go outside, venture to learn something new, complete a task at work, pick your kids up from school, all of these things each take small amounts of energy to complete. We then refuel ourselves by the things we choose to consume. Whether your vice is caffeine, telling people what you’re doing on social media, or shopping, etc. In healthy privileged environments, adults will surround a child with things to help the child grow. Positive praise and affirmations, educational tools and media, healthy foods for brain development. The things we continue to consume as adults says a lot about what we think of ourselves and what we believe we deserve.
Celebration Ideas. It’s possible that you would like to partake in this idea, but you’re not quite sure where to start. Celebrations don’t only have to involve parties, expensive dinners, or lavish gifts and vacations. Remember our experiment from earlier? Simply smiling and clapping at a baby can be the catalyst that makes them stop crying, and try walking again. Here are a few things I love to do:
- Invite someone you care about to go on a phone-free walk and just catch up on each other’s lives, share your good news!
- Listen to only gospel music for a day or music that has only positive and loving lyrics. Dance and sing until the music begins to feel like a second skin.
- Sit back, kick your feet up, and watch your favorite comedian do a 1-hour Netflix special. Lose track of how many times you almost knock over your laptop laughing so hard.
- Write yourself a genuine thank-you note and ask a trustworthy friend to mail it back to you in 6 months. Repeat this process. Begin to thank yourself for things you haven’t even done or gone through yet.
- Take a real break from social media (i.e. the ring circus of people desperate to be celebrated by everyone except themselves). Deactivate your accounts. Reach out to someone you’ve meaning to catch up with in person.
Come on, you’ve earned it. Take a few minutes, hours, days, to celebrate how despite the challenge of life, you continue to persist. Trust me, each day is no small feat. When we remember to see ourselves through the eyes of a child again, celebrations will feel natural and we’ll feel more free to repeat these behaviors that serve us well.