Acknowledgement as the Foundation for Future Accomplishments

Photo by Jake Weirick on  Unsplash

Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

It is that time of the year again! That time when we put the past behind us, begin to look forward and set new goals in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. Most of the time, we identify the opportunities to improve our lives by examining what is not working well and attempting to close the gap. I have previously shared my tips on transformative New Year’s resolutions in a post on the subject. While those tips are all well and good, instead of going over them again, I’d like to present a supplemental approach, one that is often overlooked when it comes to pursuing future accomplishment. I’d like to propose that one of the best ways to move forward is to look backward at where you have been and how far you have come. Although this sounds counterintuitive at first, I hope to make it obvious by the end of this post.

In our haste to embrace the future, we often neglect the very important step of being complete with the past. As a result, we end up getting stuck in the same ruts and repeating the same, no matter how hard we try to set ourselves free from this cycle. This tendency, to pile new skills and knowledge on top of disempowering beliefs that go unexamined, is the reason why visioning often fails to produce results, why a lot training and development ends up being a waste of time, why getting fit is so challenging, and, you guessed it, why most New Year’s Resolutions fail before they even get started.

The key to overcoming these pre-existing obstacles is to first acknowledge and then complete the past. This is so important that it is one of the “3Cs of success and fulfillment” in my book; You have to “Complete Yesterday” if you want to have any chance of “Creating Tomorrow.” I believe in the power of this process because I know from personal experience that it works. Reflecting on the past and getting complete with it is a necessary step in effective visioning of any kind. And it is not just from the standpoint of learning from mistakes and identifying opportunities, but also with the intention to acknowledge the progress that has already been made in preparation for accomplishing even more. By taking a moment to celebrate past achievements, we are rejuvenated and reassured in setting a course for even loftier, more challenging goals.

Acknowledging yourself or being recognized by others for what you have already accomplished not only boosts your confidence in your ability to make things happen, it also establishes a more solid foundation upon which you can establish a more stretching vision. When you look back at the obstacles you have overcome and the results you have produced in the face of adversity, you are likely to look at the obstacles ahead more as challenges than roadblocks, boosting your resolve that much more to overcome them along the way. When you are able to look back and prove to yourself that you have the ability to accomplish things you may have not thought possible in the past, you also give yourself license to take on bigger, more audacious goals for the future. As a result of acknowledging and celebrating your milestones, this virtuous cycle of achieving and pursuing your goals becomes more and more powerful as time goes on.

The other benefit of taking a moment to reflect on your accomplishments is that success and fulfillment are not things that you will attain at some unspecified point in the future; you have access to them right here and now. If you aren’t enjoying the journey, you will most likely quit before you even make it to the destination. So taking time to appreciate and enjoy what you have been able to accomplish is paramount. Especially if you continue to set transformative goals that will stretch you, you are likely to never arrive at the finish line. Remember, that’s what excellence is: the pursuit of perfection, knowing that you will never achieve it. As your commitment grows, so too will the scope and magnificence of your ultimate goal, which will always be infinitely far off in the distance. In this scenario, measuring yourself by how far you have to go is discouraging, whereas. measuring yourself by how far you have come will encourage you to go even farther. Therefore, celebrating milestones and acknowledging yourself and others along the way makes a taste of your ultimate success available in the present moment, and ensures that you will keep moving forward.

You may notice that I have placed a great deal of emphasis on acknowledging yourself. This is because acknowledgement can only happen when one decides to receive it. As I like to point out in my workshops and events, the fact is that we only believe what we tell ourselves about what other people say. Others can compliment you all day long, but unless you believe you deserve to be complimented, their words will have no effect on you. While it is true that we can and must be generous in acknowledging others and creating the conditions in which they are encouraged to reflect on their accomplishments, we must also get better at internalizing our own accomplishments. This refusal to accept acknowledgement is partly based on a culture of (sometimes false) humility or poor self-esteem that prevents people from sharing victories out of fear of being called arrogant by those whose scarcity mentality won’t allow them to be happy for anyone else. Oftentimes, however, it is simply the result of people not being cognizant of just how much has already been achieved. To counteract this tendency, one of the powerful exercises that I often start with when facilitating strategic planning sessions involves listing the key accomplishments that the team has had over the past year, so that there is no way that anyone can demur about what they have been able to achieve. Using various creative means of encouraging engagement, I do so in a way that has the participants feel acknowledged, both individually and collectively as a team and an organization.

Another practice that I have found to be helpful in individual coaching sessions is to start the conversation by asking what the person would like to be acknowledged for! Another way to put it is to ask them to tell me something good, some victory they have achieved since last time we spoke. When someone first hears this question, they are a bit uncomfortable with answering the question, as if doing so would be somehow impolite. After a few times, however, they know to expect the question and they begin to get in the habit of recognizing their accomplishments on an ongoing basis. In fact, after a while, they come to the session ready to share what they often wish others would recognize and acknowledge them for, because we live in a world where acknowledgements are not given or received in abundance.

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? […] Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you […] As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
— Marianne Williamson

What if you turned to the people you work with, or the people with which you have personal relationships, and asked them point-blank, “What would you like to be acknowledged for?” What if you really listened and then went on to give them a genuine acknowledgement for what they feel they deserved to be acknowledged for? Try it and I guarantee that it will transform the quality of your relationships.

What if you took the time to not only think about your own accomplishments, but to let everyone know how great you feel about your accomplishments, and how great everyone else should feel about theirs as well? You may be inclined to start this practice with a few people who really care about you and will truly be happy for you, but I would invite you to have the courage to be even more open because you never know who you are going to encourage and inspire. If you are worried about the “haters” and those with a scarcity mentality, don’t be! As my son has put it, “Haters gonna hate,” but you should not give them the power to stop you from sharing your victories and cheering others on to achieve and share theirs.

As a case in point, my family and I recently did a very public declaration of having reached a milestone that we have been committed to and diligently working toward for the past 10 years. That milestone was specifically getting out of debt, including our home. (I recently published a post on this topic, where you can read more about our journey and what we learned along the way.) To celebrate our victory, we went on the Dave Ramsey radio show to do our “debt-free scream” (which you can view here if you are so inclined). And I have to admit that I was hesitant at first. What I was thinking was, “Are people going to think we’re bragging?” and “So many others have accomplished so much more than we have!”, and so on. But I went through with it because I knew how much my wife, Connie, had been looking forward to the moment when she could make the declaration that she had heard literally hundreds of others make, and I knew that we had sacrificed to make it happen and had earned the right to celebrate our victory. Most of all, I knew that doing so could potentially inspire millions of listeners to achieve their own victories one day, just as we had been inspired by those who had shared their victories in the past. The results were astonishing and the whole experience was incredible. Aside from the fact that there wasn’t a dry eye in the room full of dozens of people, the outpouring of positive comments telling us how inspired they were by our story and how much they looked forward to accomplishing the same thing confirmed that acknowledging ourselves was already acting as a blessing to others.

I encourage you to comment on this post and let the rest of us know what accomplishment(s) you are proud of as we close out 2018 and get ready for the new year. It doesn’t matter how big or small your accomplishments may be, only that you be willing to share it with the rest of us so that we can celebrate and acknowledge you for achieving it. You’ll be amazed how your courageous act of sharing your successes will encourage others by letting them know it is possible and that they can be next.

If you’re hesitant to share your victories it in a public setting, send me a direct message and we can just keep it between us. You can “confess your wins” and they will be kept in confidence. Just let me know in detail what you would like to be acknowledged for so that you can have your accomplishments celebrated. In the coming year and beyond, I wish you all the best in boldly declaring, courageously pursuing, and abundantly achieving the extraordinary.

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About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.

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As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!

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