Small Wins on Mt. Fuji
Important goals, those that have positive impact for yourself and others, seldom come quickly. They often require a long-term commitment, sometimes working through significant resistance that can be demotivating over time. One way to ensure your constituents stay excited, focused, and committed to a long-term goal is through the discipline of celebrating small wins. The essence of this commitment is to take time to celebrate steps towards a larger goal instead of waiting until the overall goal is reached.
Three Quick Tips
Here are three considerations in this discipline that I learned as I climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan:
Break Larger Goals into Smaller Goals
Climbing Mt. Fuji was a significant challenge to me and my friends in my younger years. What kept us motivated on the climb was the fact that there were nine stops on the way to the top. We didn’t focus on the summit, we focused on the next stop. While I did not know it at the time, I was both seeking out challenging opportunities to test my abilities (behavior # 3 on the Leadership Practices Inventory) as well as setting milestones that kept me moving forward (behavior #23).
When we started the trek, we purchased a wooden staff. At each stop we could get an image burned into the staff that was unique to that stop. This acted as a small reward for each stop on the way up the mountain, helped us track our progress, and kept us motivated. While we celebrated with a great dinner the night we completed the climb, it was the small celebrations that kept us moving towards our overall goal. With business goals, this can be done by breaking larger tasks into smaller tasks, writing them out, and then “checking them off” as they are accomplished. Checking off tasks progressively gives people a dose of encouragement which make them feel better overall, reinforces commitment to the team, and excites them about the next step.
Beware of Strict Timetables
While we knew we needed to get to the top and back before sundown, we did not have a specific time to arrive at each stop on the way. Strict deadlines can lead to feelings of failure and undermine motivation. Be flexible and give yourself a little grace as you move toward your goal.
Small wins create a pattern of winning that keeps people motivated, attracts people who want to be associated with a successful venture, and helps build strong teams.