In baseball, you may be familiar with the rule of three strikes and the player is out. I have taken this concept and applied it to my daily life in a different way: three things complete, celebrate the win. I spent 19 years of my life NOT celebrating the wins. It is not that there was nothing to celebrate, it’s just incredibly easy for me to check an item off and move on to the next thing on my never-ending to do list. I had to learn to stop. As an achiever who works relentlessly to complete tasks, I have a rolling checklist that is never done, which makes celebrating wins more difficult for me. I have had to learn to stop and celebrate the win.
One technique I learned years ago is this: write a list of things you need to get done, then pick your top three things to complete and write them down for todays to do list. Once each item is complete, check it off. If you get one or two items done today, fantastic! If you get all three done, even better. Stop and reward yourself, which could be a mental break like reading a book, working on a creative project, or watching a show. It is important to revel in an accomplishment by giving yourself a break and honor your achievement in some way. If we continue to be in GO-mode, we will eventually burn out, which is not good for our mental or physical well-being, let along long-term health.
I realize only three things may not be realistic for you, but I encourage you to set a limit. Maybe your list needs to be five things or maybe you have to work on as much as you can in one day. You do you. My limit is typically three things because I’m doing all the tasks around the house: homeschooling, cooking, running errands, and often single parenting when my hubby is gone on a work trip. Find your threshold and go with it. You know yourself best. Trust yourself, then celebrate the win, and relax enjoying the fruits of your labor.
When I was in college, I was studying for a series of written exams required for my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) rating. I was dating my now husband, who encouraged me every step of the way. I recall him telling me that when I got 90% or more on the exam I was studying relentlessly for, he would take me out to celebrate. I didn’t so much care about a celebratory dinner as much as I cared about getting an “A” in my flight class, but I agreed that would be nice. Needless to say, I got an “A” on both exams, which awarded me an “A” in the class I was working on, in addition to the celebratory dinner he promised.
As college students, we didn’t have a lot of money, but I enjoyed the drive with my other half to dinner. We pulled into the parking lot of a Steak N’ Shake we had driven over an hour to get to. I looked at him with a quizzical look. He enthusiastically led me inside. I had never eaten there and apparently, had missed out. He raved about good memories of enjoying shakes and dining there growing up and wanted to share that with me. I appreciated the support and thoughtfulness he showed in taking me out in honor of my accomplishment. Now, when I see a Steak N’ Shake, I cannot help but smile, reminiscing about my first experience there and remembering the first time I truly celebrated after a major achievement.
As time went on, we got married and started a family. Fast forward to when I was 29 years old. I remember trying to find myself again, while I was pregnant with our third child. I was a skilled pilot, but somehow seemed to be flying in the clouds of motherhood with no compass or navigational course to guide me. I’m not actually sure where I thought I would be at this phase in life, but it was definitely not here. At the time, my husband worked a job at a local flight simulator company where he was home in the evenings. I knew I wanted to be home at this point, but I could not see a path forward in aviation. It was not that my future was bleak, it’s more that I couldn’t see how we were going to juggle a family and career with two pilots in the same house. I had no desire to be traveling constantly in my career field of aviation. I had been laid off from the stationary job at a nearby airport because they stopped producing my airplane, so I was no longer needed as a production test pilot.
At the time, I was unsure what type of aviation-related job would allow me the flexibility needed to raise a young family and work in my beloved field of aviation. It was not long before my next goal would reveal itself to me: obtaining my Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which would make it easier for me to compete in the aviation marketplace once my children were old enough and I was ready to return to flying professionally. The flight regulations were changing and in order for me to be grandfathered in under the old rules, I needed to study and pass the written exam for my ATP within two months after our third child’s birth. I began to study for my ATP written exam the week I came home from the hospital with our new baby. Around the clock, I nursed a newborn, cared for our two and four-year old children, and still carved out a couple hours in the evening to study. The weeks leading up to the written exam were ruthless.
That July day, I pulled into the testing center, nervous, but ready. I had not fully healed from the pregnancy yet, but I was well enough to be out and gave the exam my all. As I completed the last question for the test, I anxiously handed in my work and breathlessly waited for my results. The pleasant lady behind the counter chattered away as I counted each of my breaths. I PASSED!!!
I got in my car and called my sister, crying tears of relief. I came home to my husband and youngsters to celebrate that win. The following year, I completed my flight training, juggling all aspects of studying, flying, and childcare while working towards the hardest flight rating I had yet to attain. On the day of my checkride, I was not even sure I was ready for the fight test. As I worked through each task on the flight, the sun sank lower in the sky. As we made the final landing in the twin-engine airplane, I was unsure of my success. I climbed out of the airplane, secured it, and walked inside. As the examiner pulled out his type writer, he debriefed and wished congratulated me. I HAD PASSED! I went home to an excited family, who celebrated that huge win with me. I had done something incredibly difficult, not only in gaining new flying credentials, but also personally by tackling such a challenge while occupied with raising my family. I had not touched a multi-engine airplane in five years, let alone was instrument current. Despite these difficulties, I persevered, learned a new airplane, brushed up my flying skills, and propelled myself forward, motivated by a desire to keep my career options open as we continued to raise our young family.
The picture included in this post was take shortly after I passed my ATP Checkride. I love this picture and how it reminds me to celebrate the wins.
What is a great accomplishment in your life or career?
How do you celebrate your wins?