By Carol Traulsen
When I went to school, my teachers gave gold stars or special stickers for a job well done. I remember gazing longingly at the small box of gold stars on my teacher’s desk. They came on square sheets of wax paper, and you had to peel them off and lick the back to stick to the paper. Now they are self-sticking, but I love them just the same. I have come to the realization that I miss gold stars. I miss the feeling of pride and accomplishment that washed over me when I saw that foil star affixed to the corner of my paper. It’s a feeling I have not yet outgrown. I have not gotten to the point where I don’t need them on some level, as proof I have accomplished something, especially if it’s been a challenge.
For some, striving for gold stars is motivational. For others, it brings back painful memories of not being able to measure up. It can be emotionally draining living under such constant scrutiny, trying to live up to someone else’s standards. Gold stars are different when we give them to ourselves. When you affix that gleaming, five-pointed foil sticker to the pristine, empty calendar block or project, you can almost hear it whisper, “You did it!”
I have decided to give myself gold stars again. I seem to need them most when embarking on a new quest, or when I am in the process of reviving habits or rituals that have fallen by the wayside. This time of year I need motivation to stay active and eat healthier. I am too easily tempted by all the hot, comforting, substantial foods that we associate with cooler weather. They also happen to be filled with fat and calories. When the weather gets colder and rainy, as it does in my neck of the woods, the last thing I want to do is exercise. I’d much rather curl up under my flannel sheets than run three miles or do aerobics. This fall and winter I have promised myself I will stay fit. I have chosen a gentler approach I’m doing more yoga because the emphasis is on flexibility, concentration and breathing. That- and walking a few times a week to get my heart rate up and help with muscle tone and stamina. I think I can handle that. Maybe a gold star or two will keep me on track!
Extraordinary days don’t need gold stars to burn themselves into our memories, but a gold star would sure brighten up an ordinary day. We are worthy of reward and praise. When things go well we shouldn’t feel guilty for needing a little, “Hooray!” for ourselves. When you’ve completed a task or challenge acknowledge your victory.
We can’t all go out on shopping sprees to buy works of art, clothes, or jewelry for every little occasion. Give yourself a small treat, a gold star, a bottle of bubble bath or a special tea. Find out what motivates you. What is your gold star? What makes you feel good? What is your idea of a reward? We’re very good at finding ways to motivate our children, our friends and co-workers but we forget about ourselves. Give yourself a gold star if you finish your Christmas shopping early. Give yourself a goal and something to look forward to when you reach it. If you have a long term goal, reward yourself for some of the steps you make along the way, it will motivate you more. You may find it gives you the extra push you need to make it to the bigger goal. Celebrating the gold star moments along the way will give you a sense of accomplishment. It will make the road to success a little less bumpy.
This is not to say I expect rewards and praise from others for every little thing I do. It means that I choose to acknowledge my accomplishments in a manner that I find positive, motivational and low-cost. I have tons of stickers and other little things I like to do for myself. I believe in small victories. Sample-sized scented bath gels, time to read a good book, a long soak in the tub… these are my way of giving myself a gold star or a pat on the back. We shouldn’t rely on others to make us feel good about our accomplishments Give yourself a gold star and a little, “Hooray!” You deserve it more often than you think.