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Victory Dance Your Way to Success

On a trip to England my husband, Tom, and I visited Stratford-on-Avon, looking for the home of William Shakespeare. The historic center of town is small and easy to navigate. However, we couldn't find anything that even resembled Shakespeare's homestead. Resting against a wall, we opened our water bottles and looked once more at our map. At my insistence (since husbands don't ask for directions), we stopped a passing pedestrian.

"Can you tell us how to find Shakespeare's home?" we asked.

The man had a glint in his eyes and light-heartily replied, "Yes, you're leaning against it."

Laughing together at missing something so obvious we realized what had led us astray: What we were looking for was not what was there, but what we imagined we would find. Americans that we are, we were expecting a tourist attraction, not a simple cottage. Success eluded us, not because we hadn't found it (we were after all resting against it), but because it didn't meet our expectations.

How often have you reached a goal or passed a milestone without experiencing a single moment of enjoyment or satisfaction? Did you feel let down because reaching your goal wasn't as hard as you expected it to be? Or were you disillusioned because the accomplishment wasn't as spectacular as you had hoped?

Celebrate ALL Your Accomplishments, Small and Large

In your legal nurse consulting practice, if you make a habit of celebrating your accomplishments, both small and large, you'll find that you enjoy each accomplishment more than ever. When you learn to appreciate your smallest victories, even those that fall short of fantastic, the big goals become more special and worthy of celebration.

Working alone in my home office one day last week, I completed a project I'd been struggling with for some time. Rather than move on to my next project (they're stacked up pretty deep), I called Tom at the office to share my joyful moment. He congratulated me, and when he came home that evening, he brought a bottle of champagne. Toasting, acknowledging and celebrating the success together made that small accomplishment all the tastier.

While I don't recommend celebrating every tiny accomplishment with a drink, you can give yourself a bit of praise, an extra moment to enjoy a cup of tea, a five-minute meditation break or a walk after dinner. Even a small reward can make a difference.

Tom and I have a silly tradition (he'd die if he knew I was sharing this) for celebrating successes. Have you ever heard the phrase, "What do you expect, a song and a dance?" If one us completes a task but feels we haven't received adequate recognition, he or she can ask for a "song and a dance." The other must make up a song on the spot along with some dance steps. It usually goes something like this: "Tom (or Vickie) is my hero; he took out the garbage; it was really smelly. He washed out the can..." You get the idea. Now, it's not giving a world-class performance that matters here. What's essential is to make sure the other person feels truly appreciated for what they've done.

When you were a child and first pulled yourself upright, your parents celebrated. Your first steps were a cause for jubilation. Your first words, the first time you successfully used the potty and your first report card (hopefully in that order) all brought volleys of praise. We are trained from childhood to expect praise, but as adults we find ourselves giving it to others more often than to ourselves. As nurses, we are naturally nurturing, and we usually nurture everyone except ourselves. We need to nurture ourselves as much as we nurture others.

Create Your Own Victory Dance

What does this have to do with finding what we expected instead of what was there? Often, what we expect to find or to feel at the end of a project is not what we actually find or feel. The failure to feel a great sense of accomplishment can diminish the whole accomplishment for us. We need to retrain ourselves and retrain our expectations.

One of the best ways to do this is to take back some of that praise. You need it and deserve it. Practice praising yourself even if you think your accomplishment is too small, even if it didn't live up to your expectations.

When Tom and I found that we'd actually reached Shakespeare's home, we could have said, "Well, that's a disappointment. Forget about it." Instead we laughed and celebrated our small, if accidental, victory and enjoyed our visit to the great, though inconspicuous, literary landmark.

When you start learning to praise yourself, and start praising yourself generously, you'll soon find yourself enjoying everything you do more and more. You don't have to give yourself a song and a dance. In fact, you might look pretty strange to your coworkers and end up in a different nursing unit, if you know what I mean. But you do need to let yourself know – really know – that you have accomplished something.

• Keep a stack of Post-It notes that say "Good Job" and write one to yourself.
• Allow yourself a piece of chocolate at lunch or a glass of wine at dinner.
• Toast yourself with the beverage of your choice.
• Shout "YES!" and pump your arm.

Whenever Tom solves a difficult computer problem, he does what he calls the "engineer's victory dance." Sometimes no one else understands, much less appreciates, the magnitude of what he's accomplished. He may be the only one who knows how much his achievement is worth celebrating, so he's the perfect person to celebrate. To me, his dance looks like an epileptic seizure – but it makes him happy. I don't understand the dance, but then I don't always understand the extent or complexity of the computer issue he's been working on. Tom does, however, and the dance is his unique way of celebrating his own unique victory.

Find your own victory dance. Who cares if it looks funny to others, as long as no one sticks a tongue blade between your teeth. Just make sure you allow yourself to dance that dance for accomplishments large and small.

About the Author: Inc. Top 10 Entrepreneur, Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD is the founder and president of Vickie Milazzo Institute (, a legal nurse consultant training and certification company. She is the author of Inside Every Woman: Using the 10 Strengths You Didn’t Know You Had to Get the Career and Life You Want Now, 2006.

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