I remember buying my first iPhone, installing a to-do list app on it, and filling it with literally thousands of things to do.
Of course, I never had the time to do all of those things no matter how hard I worked and ended up uninstalling that app and deleting all the to-do items with it.
Maybe, this is my personal subjective perception, but I feel like we live in a society where we don’t acknowledge each other’s successes but only criticize and complain.
I can see why. If a boss had to acknowledge the accomplishments of an employee, the employee wouldn’t work as hard and ask for a raise.
If a teacher acknowledged a student, that student would slack off. If a parent acknowledged their child, that child would get spoiled.
As a result, we create a culture where the successes aren’t acknowledged, but the slightest failure is punished harshly.
The reality is the complete opposite. People work harder when their achievements are acknowledged. If you want to get your employees, students, and children to work hard, recognize their achievements. That’s the basic rule of leadership.
We don’t treat ourselves any different than we treat others. We don’t acknowledge our accomplishments, but we are too quick to find fault with ourselves. That erodes our self-esteem.
There’s a simple rule of communication, relationships, and leadership. It’s called the 5-to-1 rule. To maintain balance in our relationships, we need to give five times more positive feedback for each negative feedback we deliver.
Make no mistake, I don’t mean to play Pollyanna and never tell people what they did wrong. That’s unfair to you, to them, and to everybody. If you don’t give them constructive criticism, you’re robbing them of valuable growth opportunities.
However, every instance of constructive criticism needs to be balanced with five cases of positive feedback. Otherwise, your constructive criticism undermines the self-esteem of that person, and their performance degrades over time.
The 5-to-1 rule not only applies to your relationships with others but also to your relationship with yourself. If you don’t give yourself those five instances of positive feedback, no one else will give them to you. That’s the sad reality of our culture.
Especially, people who are ambitious and interested in personal development find a lot of faults with them. Yet, they don’t pay any attention to their achievements at all. For that reason, I recommend you an exercise.
Get yourself a notebook. Write down every task you have completed and everything you’ve done right throughout the day. Every time, you write an entry in this accomplishments log, take a moment to let that emotion of accomplishment sink in.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, feel the victory, no matter how small, and take a warm bath in those pleasant feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment. Do this every time you enter an item in your log as well as at the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year. Do this every day for a decade and see what kind of a life you’ll have!
Don’t worry, you won’t be spoiled. On the contrary, you’ll be motivated to get even more of those feelings and attack the next task on your to-do list.
We think that if we keep a long to-do list and find a lot of faults with ourselves, we’ll grow a lot and we’ll get a lot done. That might sound rational on the surface, but in practice, that approach is a recipe for burnout.
You can come up with a point of improvement or two, but remember to come up with five accomplishments for each POI. The more you acknowledge your own accomplishments, the more accomplishments you’ll create in your life. Your success then will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.