Let’s Talk About…Milestones

Taking stock of your success is just as important as striving for it, says Davina Greene.

Davina Greene is The Personal Strategy Coach – a coach, trainer, and People consultant based in Dublin, Ireland. This column was first published in Irish Tatler magazine. 

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When was the last time you stopped to consider the progress you’ve made?

So often we focus on the as-yet-unaccomplished, forgetting to remember good things already achieved; things that create the foundation for everything yet to come.

Hard work and focus can be detrimental to our ability to stop and smell the roses. That said, even where we make the time, we (especially here in Ireland!) are still very much getting used to the idea of talking comfortably about our achievements, whether aloud or just in our own heads! We still have that tendency to think of it as blowing one’s own trumpet, responding to any praise with “Oh, it was nothing, really. No big deal at all.”

To give some perspective, it is important to remember that a milestone may not necessarily have started out as a specific, written goal. You plan a large project, and each stage completed constitutes a significant milestone – that’s understood. Alternatively, you may hear your child give an exceptionally mature response to a problem situation one day and think “Wow, that neatly sews together everything I’ve ever tried to teach her! She’ll be just fine.” Such a moment of realization and relief can also be a milestone worth noting and, above all, pausing to enjoy.

Most milestones are relative, and need to remain so – take care not to measure yourself against someone else who stands in a totally different starting position. A milestone, for one person, could be running a marathon; for another person, it might be making it up the stairs without stopping and therefore having a life-changing, momentum-giving eureka moment about what “health” might be about to feel like. One person may not see any significance in anything that happened before she “became CEO”; another might simply be happy that she “maintained enough ongoing confidence to show up for work every day this year, for the first time ever”.

Why should we, as individuals, care about acknowledgement of milestones? Because it brings confidence and pride, which can result in a burst of energy that gives even greater momentum for the next stage. It breeds self-awareness, which leads to an enhanced ability to understand and promote oneself. Significantly, it can serve as a pressure-release valve, providing relief for mental stress (“It’s done, it’s over, it’s officially off my list”). A nice bonus is that noticing which achievements provide the greatest ‘kick’ may tell you something about where your heart really lies, and where your future choices should.

Why should businesses celebrate milestones? Well, we know that organisations nowadays dedicate significant time to matters of Engagement, Internal Branding, and Communication in order to create company pride and high-performance environments. On the basis that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’, imagine how much additional performance could be created by instigating the above-mentioned ‘burst of energy’ simultaneously across tens, hundreds or thousands of people upon the finalization of a project, the launch of a product or the winning of an award. Achievements imply success and growth, which in turn imply security, which so many people actively seek. In truth, in a highly competitive world, mere survival can be worth celebrating!

Are milestones always something that require public celebration? Not necessarily; some milestones are for sharing, others are not. If trying to make someone understand why you see something as a milestone is going to ruin that milestone for you, keep it to yourself. Know your audience for each topic – don’t let an eye-roll or a confused stare diminish your pride. Not all milestones require a party; a moment of self-praise, or a quick note in a reflective journal, may be all that is required. In general, it is important to notice, in yourself and in others, whether public acknowledgement is a motivator or a “mortifier” – not everyone seems to appreciate this distinction and so surprise can result when the drawing of attention to an achievement causes certain individuals to disappear from radar for a significant period, keen not to be singled out again. Simply let those around you know which you require; remember, nobody can read your mind.

We all have, as per the old political slogan, “A lot done. More to do.” Just don’t lose sight of that first bit!

 

Key Points

Put aside time to reflect – if you don’t pause to notice, you may not notice at all

View milestones in terms of your growth, not in terms of comparison or competition with others.

Enjoy the fact that every milestone moment creates a “better you”, or a better business.