52 – The Happiness Hit: Why Celebrating “Wins” is Essential for Confidence and More {Re-Release}

Want more confidence? Hack your brain!

Listen here:

Or choose your favorite podcast player:

Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoodpodsAmazon MusicStitcheriHeartRadioOvercastGoogle PodcastsMore Options

While brain hacking sounds mysterious (if not illegal—and painful!), it’s simply the latest way to describe an effective neuroscientific method that rewards you with a “hit” of the happiness (or pleasure) hormone, dopamine. You can harness this to increase your motivation, which then fuels your confidence and can positively impact your creativity, and even productivity. 

How do you access it? By recognizing your own progress, or what I call “celebrating your wins.” 

Is it really that simple? Yes! But how? Because when you recognize and celebrate your progress, your brain releases dopamine, aka the pleasure hormone. It works for babies, but we’ve forgotten this “one simple trick” as adults.

This re-released episode was originally titled 3 Epic Reasons to Celebrate Your Wins. Voted on by Substack subscribers as the last episode of the year because they wanted to finish 2023 strong! You can too by listening to this episode for the 3 key takeaways:

  1.  what’s happening in your brain when you celebrate
  2.  how depriving yourself of these celebrations hurts you
  3.  why doing this regularly keeps you motivated and excited to get what you want

DM me on Instagram if you have questions about this week’s episode. To apply to be on the podcast, fill out this form. And don’t forget to join the LVMC Substack for expanded discussions and behind-the-scenes info on each episode.

If you enjoy what you hear and want to help keep the show ad-free, please support the show!

Also enjoy some limited edition merch, and join the LVMC Substack so you never miss an episode (or the episode discussions).

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see my Disclosure Policy.*

In this episode

  • Get on the mailing list for future Word of the Year workshops
  • Diary of a CEO episode with James Smith
  • Instagram post of the interview with James Smith
  • Other episodes around celebrating wins and progress:
    • Episode 12: Progress, Gains, & Your Comfort Zone – Life Lessons from Weightlifting, Part 3
    • Episode 34: You’ve Got Fans – Building Confidence from Your Support System (Bonus Episode)
    • Episode 27: Celebrate Like a Football Player (Bonus Episode)
    • Episode 1: Kill Your Fear of Creativity
    • Episode 2: Are You an Artist or a Scientist?

Additional reading

Want more discussion on this topic? Check out these complementary blog posts by subscribing to the newsletter, or read them directly on Substack:

  • coming soon

Socialize with me

Follow me online at: Instagram | Tiktok | Substack | YouTube


[00:00] Paulette: Buen día, mi gente, and welcome to La Vida Más Chévere, the only Spanglish podcast for childfree Latinas y Latines trying to dismantle the toxic cultural bullshit we all grew up with, so that we can live our best lives instead. I’m your resident childfree Latina and host, Paulette Erato.

[00:20] It’s the final episode of 2023. How we feeling, fam? Are you happy to say goodbye to the year or are you sad it’s over? For me, it was a rollercoaster where I rarely felt fully grounded. And I’m hoping that 2024 gives me less rollercoaster and more ease. I’m working on feeling anchored this year. And also, right now, because why wait? I don’t wait for a date on the calendar to start on good stuff, and you don’t have to either if you don’t want to.

[00:51] This episode is also the winning topic voted on by all the followers on Substack. If you haven’t already joined the LVMC Substack, then you’re not really getting the full La Vida Más Chévere experience. Substack is free to join, you get a discount code for the OG LVMC Baseball Tee, you get to vote on future content for the podcast, Substack, and social media, and join other like minded people who also want to dismantle the toxic cultural bullshit we all grew up with.

[01:21] Plus, this year, I’m giving them my Word of the Year workshop for free, so get on the list before it goes out so you don’t miss it. It’s like a theme of the year, which is helpful in feeling stable and secure and safe. When I first started this podcast, my focus was on helping listeners tap into their inner creative center as a method for obtaining and sustaining their confidence.

[01:44] In doing that, you have to calm your inner critic and unlearn some toxic cultural norms and then rewire your brain to break unhelpful or even harmful patterns. So, you might be able to see how we got from there to here, where now it’s about dismantling the toxic cultural norms, to have the confidence to live our best lives instead.

[02:05] Same mission, slightly different focus. What hasn’t changed at all is that I’m a huge proponent of taking a moment to appreciate your progress. I call it celebrating your wins, and that’s the idea in this episode. It’s actually a way of brain hacking, which is kind of fascinating. Using neuroscience tools to your advantage?

[02:25] Yes, please! I put this into practice just a few episodes back when we celebrated my 50th episode, so check that out if you haven’t already. Right now it’s also football season, timely in that I use a few football references in this episode. But don’t worry, if you’re not into football that’s okay, I’m just using it to explain the idea of why celebrating tiny, tiny wins is so important, and football players do this really well!

[02:50] I should also warn you, it’s also only the fourth episode I ever produced, back when I was still learning how to do this. So the audio might be a little rougher than you’re used to. I cleaned it up a little bit, but we can also treat this as a sign of growth, which we also are all about celebrating here on La Vida Más Chévere, because growth means progress. And that is a good thing.

[03:12] While we’re here, I’ll also leave you links to a few other episodes that tie into the same premise of growth and progress and celebrating wins. It’s an important topic, especially if you’re the type that wants positive New Year’s resolutions, which you can start at any time, but let’s start this episode.

[03:30] And today we’re talking about celebrating all of your wins, big or small, but especially the small ones. If you haven’t already listened to episodes one and two, I highly recommend them for what we’re focusing on today. In them, I mentioned how and why your thoughts and feelings are in your control and why proof is important to your brain.

[03:49] So if you haven’t already, go check them out. I don’t know about you, but I like having a word of the year. If you don’t know what that is, it’s kind of like a theme for the year. In fact, I’ll do a word of the year workshop later this year, if you’re interested, just jump on my mailing list. I’ll leave a link in the show notes.

[04:04] Last time I talked about the importance of a theme song, a hype song for getting into your zone of creativity. So yeah, I like themes. And my word for this year. Actually, I have two. Anyway, my words are progress and adventure. Progress. Progress. It’s both a noun and a verb. I like words like that. Anyway, progress.

[04:23] It’s important to celebrate progress, any kind of progress, but especially small advancements, because each step towards accomplishing a task is a sign of progress. And when you honor those small jumps, a few things happen. One, you’re getting a happiness hit in your brain. You get flooded with neurochemicals all designed to make you feel good.

[04:43] Why wouldn’t you want that? Two, every time you acknowledge that you’ve made progress, that you’ve moved forward, that’s providing proof to your brain that you are capable of doing the thing, you know, whatever it is you’re working on. That proof is necessary for building habits or rewiring our brain with new neural pathways.

[05:02] And three, that happiness that’s flooding your brain can even make you more productive. So let’s break these down. Recently, Stephen Bartlett had online personal trainer, James Smith, on his podcast, Diary of a CEO. I will link to that episode in the show notes. They were talking about how all wins feel the same, no matter how big or small, whether you’re buying, quote, a Lamborghini or a brand new Golf, unquote.

[05:28] It feels the same. You can skip to this point in the conversation over on Instagram, which I’ll also link. What James Smith was positing in that interview is that it does you no good, in fact, you’re depriving yourself of well earned and necessary dopamine hits and pleasure, if you don’t celebrate small wins.

[05:46] I’m a huge believer in recognizing small wins. Every Friday in my Facebook group, we have a thread where people can drop even their most tiniest small wins, and we will cheer you on. The second part of that is important too. See, it’s one thing to give yourself the pleasure hit to your brain by yourself.

[06:04] You should absolutely 100 percent do this at every opportunity. It’s free. There’s no quote uber surcharge, as James mentioned in that episode, to giving yourself a hit of pleasure in the brain. But, if you allow other people in to celebrate with you, you’re amplifying that feeling. It’s like sharing drugs that are totally legal without any side effects.

[06:25] Everyone’s morale is lifted. You know that saying a rising tide lifts all boats? That’s what sharing wins does too. You’ll see this a lot in team sports. When someone on a team makes a good block or scores a goal, everyone on the team cheers. My favorite example of this is professional football. I’m sure it happens in other sports too, but let’s talk American football.

[06:47] If you’ve never seen the sport, here’s a quick explanation of the game. There are two teams, eleven people on each side. So one team has the ball and the other team is trying to keep them from advancing it. The entire point of this game is to move the ball from one end of the field into the end zone on the opposite side, a hundred yards away.

[07:04] But every time a team has the ball, they get four tries to move it just ten yards. So every time a team has the ball, they’re not trying to get all the way down. They’re just trying to get those ten yards. Now, sometimes they might try to go further for a stretch goal, right? But the goal is ten yards. If they move that ten yards, they get another four tries, and so on and so forth.

[07:26] So the team with the ball is trying to move one tenth of the field. These tiny baby steps. And the other team is trying to make sure they do not do that. Okay, so that’s the point of football. You’re trying to move 10 yards every time you have the ball. And what happens every play? These big burly men and all their padding applaud one another for the smallest things.

[07:48] Now the big thing, if they actually make it into the end zone, they jump up to the stands, they high five, do dances, whatever. But we’re still talking about just moving 10 yards. Sometimes they only move like four yards and they smack each other’s helmets and high five like they just found a planet or they just birthed a child.

[08:05] They are so proud of themselves and their teammates. Or when the other team stops them from moving, there’s recognition of doing that good job for the smallest thing. My point is that the smallest bit of success that each team manages on the field is congratulated like it’s the grandest thing that has ever been done and will ever be done until the next time.

[08:27] So why do they do that? Because celebrating those tiny little things that happen every day successfully is what gets you from moving just the baby step of 10 yards down the field to getting all the way into the end zone. Celebrating keeps you motivated. It rewires the brain to believe you can get into the end zone.

[08:46] It’s making new freeways in your brain. Let’s talk about actual baby steps. That’s one of those childhood milestones that’s important to track. And how do parents encourage their children to keep walking no matter how many times they lose their balance and fall on their butts? They get excited. They applaud.

[09:03] They cheer. They celebrate baby steps. They celebrate baby steps. And what happens to the kid who is trying to walk? They get excited. They want to keep receiving this reaction because what’s happening inside their brains is they’re also getting a hit with those happy neurochemicals while their brain is developing new neural pathways so they can continue to excel at walking.

[09:28] That encouragement is vital to our development. It’s the proof the young brain needs to keep doing the thing. So this reinforcement is wiring the baby’s brain that yes, this is a good thing. Keep doing this thing. And this doesn’t stop when we’re older. We’re still building neural pathways in our brain all the time.

[09:49] We just stop celebrating as often. Why is that? Because we feel silly for wanting to be proud of ourselves? Because somewhere along the way, we internalize some story about how pride is bad? I’m here to tell you that’s horseshit. Be proud. Recognize your accomplishments, even if they aren’t big and flashy.

[10:09] Because remember, buying the 25, 000 car creates the same pleasure reaction in your brain as buying the car that costs 10 times as much. The size of the accomplishment isn’t the point. That you made one is the point.

[10:24] Now, this isn’t an excuse to go 180 in the opposite direction and become a cocky motherfucker. No one likes those people. I’m not telling you to gloat. Gloating and trying to prove that you’re better than other people, that’s not what this is about. That actually comes from insecurity, and we’re not here to add to our insecurities. We’re trying to give less power to the inner critic, not more.

[10:48] So now that we’ve established that recognition and celebration are good for you, that they keep you motivated, that they help you to develop more competency, let’s talk about how that translates to productivity.

[10:58] And before we get into that, I’m going to let you know right off the bat that I think our culture’s obsession with being productive isn’t just bullshit, it’s straight up harmful. We aren’t robots, we’re not machines, we’re human beings and we require rest. This entire mentality of I can sleep when I’m dead is gross and a terrible work ethic.

[11:20] The point is to work smarter, not harder, right? Because tired or miserable people don’t make for productive workers. Happy and fulfilled people do. So my aim to make you more productive is to help you become more fulfilled, not work yourself into burnout and a collapsed central nervous system. So here’s a quote from the Harvard Business Review.

[11:42] In our recent research on creative work inside businesses, and through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle. Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a work day, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.

[12:10] Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high quality product or service, everyday progress, even a small win, can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.

[12:22] Because you already know from episode one that your emotions, aka your feelings, are impacted by your perception, that’s the info that’s coming into your brain, this makes sense. And when we feel good, we’re more motivated to do the work. So what the HBR, or Harvard Business Review, is saying here is that all of that is reinforced and sustained when we can see measurable progress. And the more often that we see that progress, the more creative we tend to be.

[12:51] What I like about this quote is that it doesn’t qualify how the progress is measured or who is acknowledging it, outside of the worker. You recognize your own progress. You don’t wait for anyone else to validate you. You celebrate your victories. I mean, sure, it’s nice when the boss recognizes your work, and what you should do is keep a kudos file for yourself. Print out emails you receive from people who are complimenting you, whether they be peers, people above you, people below you, keep that and review them. Because you’re a chingona and you need to remember that.

[13:28] So what the HBR is saying is that when a person perceives progress in their work, they’re more motivated to keep at it. When we start seeing proof that we are reaching our goals, we’ll tend to work harder for it. And remember how the brain loves proof. And this doesn’t just apply to your job. This is important in your creative outlets.

[13:50] When I first started sewing I could not for the life of me make the stitches go in a straight line and most new sewers start off like that with wonky stitch lines. But with enough patience and practice the stitching eventually straightens out. I remember the first time I sewed a straight line I cheered that occasion up like it was Christmas.

[14:08] I posted about it on Instagram. I was like look at what I can do! And that was me recognizing and celebrating my small victory. Here we are six years later, not only can I sew a straight line most of the time, I can make all kinds of garments that I used to find intimidating. Hell, I just finished a bespoke jean jacket a few months ago.

[14:30] That was the single most time consuming and technical thing I have ever made. It took me over a month to get it done, but I knew going in that I could do it. I can hack this. I’ve proven to myself over and over in the last six years, starting with wonky stitches, that now I’m capable, I’m competent at this.

[14:49] I see it in the clothes hanging in my closet. See, I can see it for myself because I’ve celebrated my wins, I’ve celebrated these small victories, I’ve seen my progress, and it keeps me going back.

[15:01] So think about how you measure your progress in your own creative endeavors. What keeps you going back to what you do? And when you think about that, then I want you to start celebrating your small victories, your small wins, your progress, no matter how small it may look now.

[15:22] In the meantime, here’s what I want you to take away from this episode. One, celebrating your wins is free and it gives you a hit of feel good chemicals in your brain.

[15:33] Number two, celebrating your victories is a great way to establish proof for your brain that you are competent. And finally, three, celebrating creates and strengthens your neural pathways to keep you excited and motivated to do more of what you want to do.

[15:50] And that’s a burrito. Do you got something to say about this week’s episode?

[15:55] DM me on Instagram at Paulette Erato. And if you’d like to be a guest on La Vida Más Chévere, check out the guest form on my website at pauletteerato.com. All of these links are in the show notes. While you’re at it, can I ask you a favor? I’d really appreciate your helping spread awareness about the podcast.[16:13] So could you please share it on your socials or even send it to a friend? New episodes come out every other Tuesday. You can enjoy them with tacos or burritos. Muchísimas gracias for your support y hasta la próxima vez, cuídate bien.

Leave a Reply