“Daddy, I won!”
I looked up from my laptop to see my 5 year old son dancing around the living room, happy that he finished in 3rd place in a game of Mario Kart. He smiled, beaming pure joy at his accomplishment.
You’re not mistaken. You read that correctly. He finished in 3rd place and he won.
See, for me and probably a lot of other people out there reading this, our definition of success would probably be finishing in 1st place. We want the gold medal. We want to stand on the highest platform. But we weren’t always good enough to compete on that level.
There was a time when my son couldn’t finish a single lap. He’d end up in 12th place with his kart turned in the wrong direction. We celebrated when he could successfully finish a lap before all the other racers finished the entire race. Then when he reached the point where he was able to finish all 3 laps, we celebrated again. After that, he got pretty good where he’d finish in the middle of the pack at about 6th place. Yep, you guessed it. We’d celebrate again. Now he’s reached the point where he can finish a race in 3rd place, and of course, we’re cheering and celebrating his win.
There are times in our lives when we’re working towards our goals and all we have in our minds eye is the “big goal”. 1st place. We fail to celebrate the achievements along the way to the larger goal. There’s a riddle that asks the question, “how do you eat an elephant,” to which the answer is, “one bite at a time.” Many times we try to eat our big elephant goal all at once, then get disappointed when we fail to fit it all in our mouth. We become disillusioned with the goal, then abandon it because it’s “too hard.” If we take the moment to celebrate the accomplishments along the way, we build momentum and the energy to endure to the end. The process becomes as sweet as the ultimate goal when we take joy in being a 3rd place winner.