What do you celebrate?
Holidays and birthdays. A promotion at work or buying a new car. Graduating college or the birth of your first child. Life gives us many moments of celebration.
But what about all the other days? What do you lift up in your daily life?
You become what you celebrate.
Consider your typical teenager’s room. If you look around, what occupies the places of prominence? Posters of bands and movie stars who, for the most part, live lives unworthy of emulation; iPhones filled with music that redefines love as something selfish and sensual; video games that celebrate violence and death. And the one clean corner of the room where the lighting is perfect so they can present to the world their version of their perfect self and perfect life.
What does this tell us the typical teenager celebrates?
We become what we celebrate, and that teenager will become a cloned conglomerate of the people and things he or she is celebrating.
This is the power of celebration. What you celebrate has the power to change who you are into who you will become. Like most of the greatest powers in the world, it is subtle. You won’t notice the effect it has on you. But do not be fooled. We give power to the things we celebrate.
From time to time, we need to take a step back and courageously seek answers to some soul searching questions. ‘What are you celebrating?’ is one of those questions.
Here are 4 ways to harness that power to help you become the best-version-of-yourself.
“What did you fail at this week?”
Every Sunday night, a loving father sat at the family dinner table and asked his children this one question. Each child - and in turn, their parents - were expected to share something they had tried and failed at.
Why would a loving father take his family through this brutal exercise?
Even a failure can be celebrated in the right context.
Because the father wanted to take away the sting of trying new things. He wanted to redefine what it meant to be successful for his children. He wanted to celebrate the attempt, not the achievement. He wanted to praise his children for their grit, their determination, and their daring. Because of this his children grew up fearless in the face of disappointments and setbacks. Eventually, his daughter started many businesses and became the youngest female billionaire in history. She credits much of her success to that question at dinner on Sunday nights.
Be intentional about what you celebrate, and don’t limit it to holidays, anniversaries, or special achievements. Even a failure can be celebrated in the right context. Let your values dictate what you will celebrate, and make those celebrations a part of your daily life.
You become what you celebrate. Consider your values, and the values you want to spread to the people in your circle of influence. Intentionally celebrate the thoughts, ideas, actions, and behaviors that underline those values.
Does a celebration need to be a party? Does it need streamers? Does it have to have a piñata? Is it only valid if there is a greeting card for that occasion?
Like the story of the Sunday night dinner shows, even a question can be a celebration. In essence, what is a celebration? It’s an attempt to mark the goodness or value of something. Can’t a smile do that? Or a question? Or a nod? Or a note?
Doesn’t spending time with someone mark their goodness and value?
With the right intention, you can turn every interaction into a celebration of what is good and true and noble.
Let me sum up this point by asking you two questions:
Would you rather have more good and valuable things in your life, or less?
Would you rather affirm the good and valuable things in your life, or ignore them?
I hope that for both questions your answer is the former rather than the latter.
Grab coffee for a coworker.
Don’t ask your children if they won or lost the game, ask them what they learned.
Smile at the person at the checkout counter.
Take your neighbors trash bins up from the curb.
With the right intention, you can turn every interaction into a celebration of what is good and true and noble. You can mark the goodness and value in your life in a thousand small ways everyday.
Gratitude breeds celebration, and celebration breeds gratitude.
If celebration is an attempt to mark the goodness or value of something, then every act of gratitude is by its very nature a celebration. But there is a problem. Gifts so quickly become expectations that we forget to be grateful.
Here’s just one example: air to breathe. Is air valuable? Well, considering we couldn’t live without it, I’d say so. Is it good? Yeah, it’s essential to life. But how many people do you think really stop to be grateful for the air they breathe? I barely think about it, and even when I do it’s hard to be heartfelt about it.
What better way to celebrate the start of a new day than to remind yourself of all that you have to be grateful for?
Gifts so quickly become expectations. Your car. Your house. Your job. Your spouse. Your children. Your parents.
What if you started a list.? A gratitude list. What if you got a notebook and wrote down everything you were grateful for? Everything. The air you breathe. The blood in your veins. The food you eat. Everything.
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Every morning, right when you wake up, you could read through the list, saying a quick ‘thank you’ after every item. At the end of the list you could just keep adding things you are grateful for as they come up. What better way to celebrate the start of a new day than to remind yourself of all that you have to be grateful for?
What’s the worst that could happen? You have too much to celebrate? It takes so much time to celebrate all the things on your list you have to be thankful for?
Now that’s a problem I’d love to have.
Celebration is inherently generous.
When you celebrate, you tell something or someone that they have value - that they matter. This is the highest form of generosity.
We can do things for other people, we can give things, we can give time - we all have so much to give. But the widespread truth about generosity is that it is not about the gift - it is about what the gift says. The gift says ‘you matter’. The gift says ‘you’re worth it’. The gift says ‘you are loved’.
The truth is, the more you give away, the more you have.
Flood your life with celebration and you will grow in generosity without even trying. And - like so many other aspects of life - the law of the harvest applies here. You reap what you sow. Sow generosity into the world, and it will return to you one hundred fold.
The law of the harvest is the great irony of generosity. Because what holds most people back from giving and giving more? You think if you give something away you have less. “I don’t have enough to give.” But the great irony of generosity is that this is a lie. The truth is, the more you give away, the more you have.
Seek not to hoard what you have, but rather seek to find new ways to give to the people around you. If a celebration doesn’t need to have streamers and balloons and a cake, then generosity doesn’t need to be money or presents or stuff.
Be generous with kindness. Be generous with patience. Be generous with love. Be generous with joy. Be generous with peace. Be generous with goodness. Be generous with gentleness.
You become what you celebrate. Recognize people and their value, and you will a become a person worthy of celebration yourself.
It will cost you nothing. Harness the power of celebration through practicing generosity, and you will find your life filled with more kindness, patience, love, joy, peace, goodness, and gentleness than ever before.
Look for one opportunity to be generous every single day. One daily act of generosity. It doesn’t have to be big. Remember to celebrate small. If you keep your gratitude list, you’ll see you have so much to give. Wake up every morning looking for an opportunity to give, and life will not leave you disappointed. Never let your head hit the pillow without that act of generosity.
What does your mom want every year for her birthday? Not presents of course. She just wants a little note from you telling her how much she means to you and how much you love her.
What’s the point of the employee of the month award? To celebrate an employee by recognizing them and affirming their hard work.
The highest form of celebration is recognition and affirmation.
Recognition says: I see you. Be intentional and celebrate small.
Affirmation says: You are valuable. Practice gratitude and generosity.
These four guidelines will bring you to the highest forms of celebration and help you harness the power of celebration. You become what you celebrate. Recognize people and their value, and you will a become a person worthy of celebration yourself.