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Six Ways to Help Yourself Celebrate Success

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You’ve had a great success: the project came in 3 months early and under budget; the team rallied like it never had before; the client sent a letter to the CEO congratulating him on a job well done and the quality of his employees; and you received a bonus.

Boy, are you depressed?!

First, you wonder if you’ll ever achieve such success again. Second, you’re struggling to believe you deserve the success—it was all due to the team, to luck, to your ability to act confident and fool people—you are a fraud and an imposter. Third, you now see all the ways the project could have come in 4 months early and even further under budget.

At one time or another, those feelings are experienced by up to 70% of the population. They interfere with the ability to enjoy and build on success. They frustrate your team, especially if you skip immediately to analyzing failures, and put them under stress just when they should be experiencing happiness. You need more motivation than success itself to celebrate. These six tips will help you feel more comfortable celebrating your successes.

Allow Yourself to Decompress

Success, and certainly the effort building toward it, is stressful. You have reached your goal but you have also relinquished it. You wonder what comes next. Moreover, now that everything is done, you have, in a sense, been sidelined whether or not you want to be. You have received accolades that make you the top person among your peers but that position is temporary until the next project comes along and you must prove yourself again.

When you strove toward your goal, you may have skimped on sleep, nutrition, and exercise, and that inattention to physical well-being is also catching up with you. Family and friends may be asking for attention now that you no longer have the project to distract you.

The end of a goal, the lack of purpose and control, the uncertainty of the future, the accumulated physical toll, and the expectations of others, all combine to create stress. To alleviate that stress, try deep breathing, meditation, and your SMaRT skillset. Take a break, experience what you are feeling, and give yourself a chance to find your balance. Take care of yourself and let others know what you need right now.

Recognize What You Have Done

One of the benefits of a photo album is that it lets us see how we have grown. After each success, take the time to create a mental photo album: where we you in your career when this project started, or a year ago, or five years ago? Acknowledge and celebrate success in your own growth and progress.

This tactic also works to alleviate any sense of failure by putting it into the context of your full professional and personal life. Update your resume, list the things you are grateful for, and renew your connection with the positives in your life.

Let Imposter Syndrome Work for You

Admit that you, in fact, do not know everything. No one does. But you know that and so are able to learn from others. You listen and pick up on what your team and client need. Listening, accepting feedback, visualization, finding a mentor—whatever your go-to method is for handling situations where you feel out of your depth, it makes you more resilient and more expert every time. When you learn new things, you reconnect with your ability to handle information, change, and course corrections.

When you talk to others, you may also find that you are ready to re-evaluate your future. You may find a new goal, project, or path that excites you as much as the one that just ended.

Pass It On

Another way to reconnect with and celebrate success is to share what you know by advising or mentoring someone else. Every question you answer is a demonstration of what you bring to problem solving, decision making, and leadership. Your willingness to help and ability to influence others is not a failing (“I’m manipulative”) or a trick (“I make it up as I go along”), but an asset that they appreciate.

Define Success

What would it take to make you feel successful?

Success has many definitions, most of them deeply embedded in a value system. For example, if you equate money with success or the ability to provide for your family, then a bonus should meet that measure. If you equate an appreciative team with success, then you should be rallying around the accomplishments of your team. If you equate success with praise, certainly praise from the client and CEO should make you feel successful.

If nothing can accomplish a feeling of success in your professional or personal life, re-examine your value system. You may be competing with “everyone else” or striving for an unrealistic goal (“become a multibillionaire by my 25th birthday”) or refusing to believe what is before you (“the client can’t possibly mean that”). If negative self-talk continues or reality moves further away, you may benefit from speaking to a professional.


Your peers or your team may be more ready to celebrate success than you are; but if ever there was a moment to fake it, this is the one. First, give your team time and space to relax from their effort and reduce their own stress. An extra day off is a practical and appreciated reward. Then, consider how your team likes to celebrate. Pay for a meal just for the team, a gathering that includes families, a drink after work, or a surprise cake during the next team meeting.

Find something you are comfortable with; you are allowed to be as introverted or extroverted as you like, so long as you celebrate success. For example, you could simply acknowledge their individual contributions at your next meeting; sometimes a thank you is the reward most appreciated and least in evidence.

Next, create a tradition, something you do with just your teams. You could take a team photo and post it on your office as a wall of honor. Send a complimentary letter to your CEO or each team member’s matrixed boss, copying the employee. You could arrange a standing ovation for the team by their coworkers. You could share your bonus.

Success is fragile and it deserves celebration.

Key Takeaways

We often forget that the progress to success is stressful and then wonder why we don’t feel like celebrating. Taking time to decompress, remembering our journey, refreshing our definition of success, and sharing what we’ve learned are all ways of regaining our appreciation for success and our zest for celebration.

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