Small wins can pay big dividends. Social scientists, as well as, leadership and business experts agree that modest victories can provide us with major inspiration.

You may have heard of the progress principle. Researchers at Harvard Business School conducted a multi-year study of what makes employees happy and productive. They found that daily progress on meaningful work was the most powerful factor by far.

Here is a brief overview of the general principles behind this almost goof-proof formula for success, along with a few practical examples about how you can apply a small wins strategy to your life.

5 General Principles Behind Small Wins

1. Keep a journal

  • Writing in a journal will help you recognize and celebrate miniature milestones that you might otherwise overlook.
  • You will also be able to track your progress and understand the conditions that affect your performance.

2. Create catalysts

  • According to the Harvard team, there are two kinds of actions that encourage small wins.
  • The first, catalysts, are related to how you work.
    • Set clear goals
    • Budget your time and resources
    • Practice open communications.

3. Seek out the nourishers

  • The second kind of action is called nourishers, and refers to interpersonal support.
  • Surround yourself with friends and colleagues who provide positive validation and constructive feedback for your activities.
  • Participate in groups that share your interests, whether it is within a faith community or professional associations.

4. Set intermediate goals

  • Lofty goals can be overwhelming.
  • Break any project down into tiny tasks. You’ll feel invigorated each time you check something off your to-do list.

5. Learn from setbacks

  • The downside of small wins is the discouragement we feel as we run into obstacles.
  • Acknowledge your feelings.
  • Always turn mistakes into valuable lessons.

9 Usable Examples of Small Wins Strategies

1. Eating more vegetables

  • Sticking with a healthy diet can be easier than you previously thought if you choose to focus on making only one change at a time.
  • Work your way up to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Mix spinach into your eggs at breakfast.
  • Snack on baby carrots and hummus.

2. Cutting down on your sugar intake

  • If you like sweetened coffee, gradually cut back to using half your usual amount of sugar.
  • Use a few alternatives like agave, or try a little honey.
  • The savings will add up.

3. Getting to bed on time

  • Adequate sleep keeps your body and mind in top condition.
  • It is very difficult to stay upbeat and focused if you cannot keep your eyes open and your mind engaged.
  • You will probably accomplish even more if you shorten your waking hours. This will force you to be more efficient with the time you have available.


  • Have you not grown weary of all those lapsed gym memberships?
  • Exercise for 5 minutes.
  • You will be exercising for more than a half hour by the end of the week if you start with 5 minutes and add just 5 minutes a day to your home workouts.

5. Memorizing a few lines

  • Maybe you would like to speak Portuguese or recite poetry, but your busy schedule always seems to get in the way.
  • Try practicing just 5 vocabulary words or one stanza a day.

6. Broaden your network

  • Whatever you do for a living, networking is essential.
  • Introduce yourself to a new contact or reconnect with a former colleague.

7. Dazzle a customer

  • Similarly, you can make any work more meaningful by focusing on those who use your products or services.
  • Give someone a sneak peek at your new line, or service product, and ask for their feedback.

8. Listen to your children

9. Surprise your significant other

  • Brighten your partner’s day with a fun surprise.
  • Take out the garbage when it is their turn.
  • Put a thoughtful note in their briefcase or pick up a carton of their favorite ice cream on your way home from work.

Our grand visions are the sum of many small wins that help us translate our dreams into action.

Taking a small step forward each day will bring you success and happiness.

Victory is victory

Photo Credit: khalid almasoud via Compfight cc