I turn 31 this month. A friend asked me how I was going to celebrate my birthday. The question took me by surprise, as I hadn’t actually thought about it. We then talked about all the different occasions we have celebrated over the years and I realised something I didn’t know before about myself : I am not very good at this “celebrating” thing.
In Chinese culture, parents often harbour high hopes for their children. This is also evident among Chinese immigrants in the UK. Given the circumstances, it is completely understandable in many ways. Yet, it is interesting to see that when life becomes more secure and comfortable, their minds are so used to being in survival mode. This is reflected in their expectations of their children. They desire for their children to do well in school, to play multiple instruments and to become well-rounded individuals which would increase their chances of enrolling in a good university.
The longing to escape poverty and to move upward in social mobility penetrates every aspect of their parenting. As a result, education becomes results-focused. Once something has been achieved, it’s onto the next goal! We are to expect nothing less than excellence! This often leaves little time to stop, breathe, look back and celebrate the journey and milestones.
Let’s be realistic – not many of us are destined to be the next Da Vinci, Einstein, Mozart or Messi. Some of us may be students, chefs, accountants, marketing executives, designers, healthcare workers, homemakers or even in search of a job. We may have different hobbies that we spend our time on. We may have treasured family, friends and loved ones. Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in right now, it is honourable for us to do the best we can. If you are Christian, this passage in the Bible may be familiar to you: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
Along the way, there will be moments or milestones we are proud of. For example, doing well in a test, receiving a compliment from a customer, hitting your 5th wedding anniversary, making yourself a healthy meal instead of ordering takeaway, resolving a conflict with your partner in a respectful, mature manner or reaching your 8,000 step goal, etc. However big or small these moments are, they should not be taken for granted.
Every small win in life is worth celebrating. It does not have to be an extravagant celebration. You could take a break from your usual routine and do something nice for yourself, like a meal out with your favourite gang, a stay-cation in the city, or even something as simple as getting a cute outfit, a TV subscription or an activity you enjoy, such as mini-golf.
Contrary to what some may believe, celebrating small wins does not make us complacent or lose momentum. In fact, it helps us build confidence in ourselves and our ability to repeat the success or achieve even greater things in the future. It is a moment specially set aside to be thankful for our blessings. It gives meaning to our everyday routine. It also encourages others who are aware of our stories to do the same, which in turn fosters a culture of appreciation and thankfulness.
American journalist Mignon McLaughlin wrote, “Celebrate small wins with big joys.” May we always honour the moments and milestones that make our history and future, and remember to pause to appreciate where we are on this journey we call life.