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positive memories

Focus on positive memories

Focusing on positive memories can be a great way of staying motivated and committed toward our long-term goals and values.

In a 2011 issue of Psychological Science, researchers discovered that loyal baseball fans are more likely to remember details of events when their team won, rather than when their team lost.

This suggests that our level of commitment and loyalty is related to our ability to sustain positive memories. When fans of a sports team win a big game, they celebrate it and reminisce about it with family, friends, and co-workers for days. This focus on positive memories allows them to feel a stronger bond with the team of their choice. On the other hand, when their favorite team loses, they tend to dissociate from the memory and not put as much importance on it. Either way, their level of commitment remains intact.

Positive memories serve a very useful purpose, not just in sports, but in all aspects of our lives. When we reflect on positive memories of accomplishing a goal, we are more motivated to grow and improve. When we reflect on positive memories of a person, we feel more connected to them. And when we reflect on positive memories of ourselves, we increase our self-esteem and self-worth.

Sometimes we get so caught up in where we are going that we forget how far we’ve come in life. But taking a step back and appreciating the good times of our past is hugely important to our happiness and well-being.


Celebrate the small wins

Often success is a series of small wins, rather than one big win. When we learn to recognize and celebrate the small wins, we keep ourselves engaged and motivated in the long term – because everyday we find something to be happy and proud about.


“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”


Louis L’Amour


Psychologist Teresa Amabile at Harvard Business School collected and analyzed 12,000 diary entries from dozens of workers across various companies and industries. What she found was that individuals who were most focused on small, but meaningful progress (based on reflections in their diary) were also found to be more productive and motivated by their work.

According to her research, Amabile believes that managers and workers are at their best when they focus on what she calls “the progress principle.” Companies that focused on incremental change were more likely to succeed than companies that drew hard lines between “success” vs. “failure.”

The main lesson is to try to find the small wins everyday. When we do something wrong or make a mistake, we can turn it around and learn from it – and that itself is a kind of victory. Acknowledge the small steps toward success, and you will one day look back and see just how much progress you made.


Discover more tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement

The Science of Self Improvement

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