Alcoholics focus on staying sober one day at a time and celebrate these “small wins”.
Research has shown that paying attention to “small wins” can help us make progress in many areas of our lives.
Small wins are like footholds or building blocks amid the inevitable uncertainty of moving forward, or as the case may be, laterally. They serve as what Saras Sarasvathy calls landmarks, and they can either confirm that we’re heading in the right direction or they can act as pivot points, telling us how to change course.
In the acclaimed paper in which Weick described small wins, published in the January 1984 issue of American Psychologist, he used the example of how helpful it is for alcoholics to focus on remaining sober one day at a time, or even one hour at a time. Stringing together successive days of sobriety helps them to see the rewards of abstinence and makes it more achievable in their minds. Elaborating on the benefits of small wins, Weick writes, “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.”
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