Cardboard ribbons and trophies arranged in a flat lay arrangement with some greenery, and overlaid text that says "Celebrating our wins!"

Celebrating Our Wins!

Happy New Year! As we move into 2022, can we pause for a second to celebrate our wins?

Often, the start of the year inspires goal setting. But this year I didn’t feel like making resolutions. We are now in our third calendar year of this pandemic, and to be honest, it feels discouraging. 

I noticed myself falling into the trap of thinking that nothing has changed. That this year is starting just the same way that last year started. But it’s not true. Things are not exactly the same. In the midst of a sense of deja vu over the past year, I have grown, I have changed, I have worked hard, and I have made lots of gains. And so have you! I know it’s true. Because participating in this world means growing and changing.

The narrative that nothing has changed was not supporting me. So, I tried to think of a way to explore an alternative story.

photo of a typewriter with typed letters on the inserted page that say "Goals"
Photo by Markus Winkler

Instead of focusing on areas for improvement, I decided to flip the script and reflect on my “wins” from the past year. Making a list of successes, or moments when I felt proud of what I accomplished, felt a lot more supportive and motivating for me. Just the idea in itself brought a different kind of energy.

It felt kind of radical to focus on my own success. It felt rebellious. And empowering. And I loved it. 

After experiencing this myself, I invited a few of my art therapy colleagues to consider and share their recent wins. Then I offered some of my clients this same invitation.

I LOVED hearing about their wins. I loved having the opportunity to pause, to learn what my colleagues and clients valued, to hear about their hard work, and to celebrate moments of success with them. Hearing their wins reminded me of other things I could add to my own list. It also inspired me to try some of the things on their lists (and just like that, some gentle goal-setting found its way in!)

silhouette of a child jumping with their arms up, in front of a sunset

Now I’m extending the invitation to you. Would you like to make a list of your recent wins?

If this idea feels invalidating of current challenges, or if it immediately brings up feelings of shame or discouragement, please listen to what you need. Sometimes, though, just getting started is the hardest part of shifting our focus. My guess is that there are lots of big and small wins just waiting to be noticed.

Here’s why I love this activity: 

  • It helps to challenge the idea that the past year was terrible, that nothing has changed, or that we’re stuck in a time loop
  • Especially in a therapy context, it can be easy to focus on what isn’t working or what we would like to change. And of course that’s extremely important. But I think it’s also important to pause every once in a while, and to reflect on how far we have come. Otherwise, we can miss the small victories and the subtle ways that we are creating change and moving towards our goals
  • This activity can reframe difficult situations, because often as we navigate challenges, we also experience wins
  • It creates space to celebrate our own accomplishments. We don’t always have opportunities to do this
  • It also inspires us to hear and celebrate each other’s wins
  • A focus on our wins challenges our inner critic who may be activated at this time of year with content about goals, self-improvement, and new year’s resolutions
  • This activity invites some positivity to balance the negative news right now
  • It brings our attention to our own progress, resilience and resourcefulness. This may shift how we view and interpret what 2022 will bring

scrabble letters arranged to say "win"

There are no rules for making this list. Anything that feels like a win is a win!

Maybe you tried something new for the first time, and discovered that you hated it. Maybe you stopped doing something that wasn’t working for you. Or maybe you finally finished that one pesky item on your to-do list. Your wins can be simple, or silly, or super deep. My list includes a combination of all of these categories.

Here are a few examples from my list of 2021 wins: 

  • I got pretty good (in my opinion) at trimming my own bangs at home.
  • I finally found a dairy-free coffee creamer that I love.
  • I learned how to make a drawing on my iPad.
  • I discovered that using a visual timer is super helpful for me when I’m working on administrative tasks. Seriously, it’s been a game changer! And a great reminder that we can find and use supportive tools throughout our lives. They’re not just for kids!
  • I set a boundary around when I check and respond to emails, and it has helped me to create a healthier work-life balance.

Your turn! What are some of your recent wins?

Cardboard "ribbons" listing some of Rubi's recent personal wins


  • Record your wins using drawings, symbols, or emojis instead of words
  • Write down your wins in the notes app on your phone so you can read them on the go any time you’re feeling discouraged. (Thanks to my friend Brianna Kestle for this idea!)
  • Get together with a friend or family member, with the intention of celebrating your wins. Bring your list to the hangout. Share a special drink or snack to celebrate your wins. (I did this one and it was the best!)
  • Collect photos from your camera roll that remind you of your wins. Create a special album on your computer or your phone and add to it over the next year.
  • Share this activity with your children
    • Be the scribe for your child and write down their list of wins
    • Collaborate on the list, adding things that you consider wins for each other
  • Make cardboard badges/ ribbons/ medals / trophies to commemorate your wins
    • Have an awards ceremony at home where your cardboard creations can be presented and celebrated
  • Email your list of wins to a family member / friend. Invite them to reply with their own list.

A cardboard trophy that says "recent wins"

Some Reflection Questions to Consider: 

  • How does it feel to think about your wins? Uncomfortable? Exciting? Weird? Affirming? Liberating? Encouraging? Hopeful? Scary? New? Rebellious? All of the above?
  • Was it easy or hard to make this list? If it was hard, did it get easier once you started?
  • Do you have a favourite win on the list?
  • Did you add an exclamation mark after any of your wins? What does this say to you?
  • Which one was the hardest to accomplish on the list?
  • Are you surprised by any of your wins?
  • What would you like to do with your list of wins? Is there anyone you would like to share it with?

cardboard award ribbon that says "personal best"

If you do feel like sharing, I would love to hear about your wins. You can email me your list. 😊

Cheers to us and to everything we have accomplished! 

2022, we are coming for you – with curiosity, self-compassion, and a whole list of wins.

Written by Rubi Garyfalakis, DTATI, RP, RCAT