Treat Yourself: Why You Should Celebrate More Often than You Do

by Site Author

Meet Bob. Bob is a successful academic and a father of two. He publishes a couple papers each year, a decent output for his field. Every now and then, he is pleasantly surprised by a teaching award, an unexpected job offer, or a seminar invitation.

But those small victories blend in with the everyday trials and tribulations of being an academic: the constant rejections from journals, the lectures that don’t go so well, mediocre student ratings. And so Bob barely notices all of the small victories. Every time something good happens, something bad soon follows.

And it is just too easy to miss the good things and get caught up in the bad. Bob ruminates and stews over the setbacks, and never celebrates the steps forward.

One day, Bob realizes how much he has become a living demonstration of negativity bias. So Bob takes an idea from Lara Hogan, and decides to celebrate each and every career milestone. And because most of the milestones are small, he arranges small celebrations.

The next time one of his papers is accepted, Bob orders the most expensive scotch-on-the-rocks he can find. He even takes a picture of the drink as a souvenir. (One day, an album: my career in 300 drinks.)

scotch

The next time Bob is invited to give a seminar, he has another drink, this time a gimlet. And then, decent teaching evaluations call for a margarita.

Bob’s new tradition—a celebratory drink after each small win—doesn’t transform his life. He doesn’t suddenly lose weight or magically achieve more each day. But the tradition forces him to to count his blessings. No longer does he let good things just go by. At the very least, the tradition pushes against Bob’s natural inclination to fixate on the negative, the ways that his career was falling short, and to ignore the many ways that it was moving forward.