A Lesson From the Peace Corps: Celebrating Small Victories

2009 August 3

One of my close friends, Natalie, is in the Peace Corps. She is located in  Guanacaste, Colorado de Abangaresa, in Costa Rica. She has been active at her sight (post orientation) for about 2 months and updates via e-mail to her family and close friends. This week I received an e-mail from her and not only does it give you perspective to a vastly different culture and the poverty that exists around the world, but the last sentence in her e-mail struck a chord. I wanted to share it here*.

Natalie’s Story:

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Ive been living at my ¨site¨ or in my community now for almost two months.  It has been a really intense time of adjustment and changes…

I’ve gotten over the scorpion, cockroach, ANTS, mosquitoes and cleanliness issues, it all becomes normal after a while…though I should say my family is improving in the hygiene area and hydration.

Two things I love to do are drink water and wash my hands… like all Americans do I have decided. They (my host family) see me doing these things all the time. We use laundry detergent to wash clothes and to wash dishes. There is no sink in the bathroom so we brush our teeth, wash our face etc. in the sink in the back yard.  I always go to the sink to dunk my hands in the laundry detergent after the bathroom and before I eat, they have all started to do this too– which I love!  Watching my host mom hand pound corn tortillas after changing my host sisters’ diaper was painful for me to watch the first few weeks here!  But now, they also all drink water because I drink almost 20 bottles a day.

In addition, people are also developing an interest in exercise!  I run in the mornings here (when I wake up early enough before the heat!)and people see me and a few have asked if they could join me, and other people tell me they want to start exercising…so I am starting a raggaeton aerobics class!

In peace corps, and in life anywhere, it is all about celebrating the small victories I have realized.  I cannot express that enough.

*Email was longer, but I took my favorite excerpts.

Do you remember to celebrate the small victories? If so, what can you celebrate today?

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  • http://ryanstephensmarketing.com/blog/ ryanstephens

    I LOVE this because this is something I'm trying to be a lot more conscientious of lately. This reminds me of a great post I read last week from Chad Fowler on Tim Ferriss' blog entitled, “Are You Better Than Yesterday?”

    I really appreciated his approach and mindset because it was essentially about trying a little bit harder and celebrating small victories. If I ate crappy yesterday, but have a salad for lunch today I've done a little bit better than yesterday. If you run just a few feet further or a few seconds faster you've improved. If you do that consistently, everyday just think about how much more fit you'll be.

    I know most people who are overweight have trouble losing it because they work hard for a full week and don't notice ANY visible changes. This is when they give up, instead they should just ask themselves. Did they do better than yesterday? If they did, they should celebrate that fact and press onward!

    Thanks for sharing this Grace!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan I'm glad you liked it. I was really struck by the thought and hearing it from her perspective. I think we're really hard on ourselves and sometimes, the power comes from the little steps where all of a sudden it has been a year and you've actually made a lot of changes! We're also a society that is very much in need of immediate gratification, which makes it hard, just like your weight loss examples. Thanks for sharing and I'm going to check out the link from Chad!

  • http://www.owlsparks.com/ Carlos Miceli

    Reading your blog is like water after a soccer game. Loved this.

    Your friend Natalie is right. Small victories are what help us to get day by day, are small steps towards the big goal. Facing this huge move in my life, I focus on the little victories to give me strength. when you have to do SO many things to move to another country, it can get really tiring.

    A little bit at a time, we can do whatever we want.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Carlos Thank you! Often there are such large leaps we make in life, that it's hard to process and swallow all at once. The small victories make life manageable and also help us realize that the little pieces count…each and every one. Thanks for sharing and the kind words, Carlos!

  • http://akhilak.com/blog Akhila

    Hey! I completely love this post and agree with it, especially because it's true – whether it's in personal life or social change, it's important to keep in mind the larger goal…while also acknowledging the “small victories.” Honestly like Ryan said, when you're trying to be a better person, make a big life change, or even participate in a broader social movement of some sort — it's really important to congratulate yourself for even small things. I think these “small victories” too often get lost in the grand scheme of things, and we forget to appreciate the small things in life.

    Love it!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Akhila You're so right. I was just really touched because each of the things Natalie has seen (on a small scale) many wouldn't realize as monumental, but they can be in the long run. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :) Hope all is well!

  • http://akhilak.com/blog Akhila

    Hey! I completely love this post and agree with it, especially because it's true – whether it's in personal life or social change, it's important to keep in mind the larger goal…while also acknowledging the “small victories.” Honestly like Ryan said, when you're trying to be a better person, make a big life change, or even participate in a broader social movement of some sort — it's really important to congratulate yourself for even small things. I think these “small victories” too often get lost in the grand scheme of things, and we forget to appreciate the small things in life.

    Love it!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Akhila You're so right. I was just really touched because each of the things Natalie has seen (on a small scale) many wouldn't realize as monumental, but they can be in the long run. I'm glad you enjoyed the post :) Hope all is well!

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