For me, goals have never been concrete mile markers but fluid ideas of what I want my life to look like. They may not be formally documented or discussed, but in the mind of a perfectionist, they are serious business.

Turning these ideas into a tangible reality is messy. I tend to be on a constant roller coaster of confidence and self-doubt, wrestling with the notion that there are some things I can’t control and others that I may not be doing enough to try to control.

Most of the time I trust in the process. Other times, I’d much rather have a breakdown over all the things that just don’t seem to be moving in the way I’d like or deem necessary.

Yesterday, when I received an email that could positively impact the reach of my writing, I was thrilled. This was a clear light on my path to creating a sustainable business.

Then, life continued on, and my mind started churning with all of the next steps I needed to take over the next few weeks.

Large goals are quick to overshadow small victories

Keeping your eye on the prize is great – necessary even – and a big downer when you’re trying to remember all of the amazing victories that are substantially smaller in size.

When I had just turned 25, a breakup and a newspaper job with an embarrassingly small salary forced me to return to my parent’s house. Priority number one at this point was landing a new job and larger paycheck. When I landed said job with a nearly 100% pay increase, the celebration was muted by the next step – landing a killer apartment I could handle on my own. When that was accomplished, my attention was already on to the next thing before the ink could even dry on the leasing papers.

Large goals or a larger life picture often force us to look ahead when there are amazing things happening right now in front of us. Without these small steps and minor victories, those larger goals wouldn’t actually have a solid foundation to sit upon.

The joy in finding the missing puzzle piece

When I was younger, my sister and I went through an intense puzzle phase. We would spend hours putting together scenes of Ariel’s underwater castle or Beauty and the Beast’s elaborate wedding scene, with no desire to leave the table or change out of our pjs.

Once we finally managed to reach the end, it was always somewhat of a letdown. We didn’t care about seeing the scene fully intact, we could already tell from the box lid what it would look like.

It was the process that we enjoyed. The process of scouring hundreds of puzzle pieces for that one specific piece that somehow miraculously fit after we swore they must have forgotten to put it the box. Those were the moments of genuine elation.

What do you have without small victories?

If I stop to think about the goals I’ve worked to meet, it’s exactly the same. The real excitement comes from the small victories that renew my faith in all that’s possible, that create forward movement towards a new realization or discovery.

The excitement and anticipation has dissipated substantially once that finish line is reached. That’s human nature – we quickly adapt to things that at one point seemed novel. We are on to the next once we see an outline of what the final picture will look like.

So really, if we don’t enjoy the process, we’re skipping over the really awesome parts – all the small pieces of good news you want to share with those closest to you, all the small steps that spur your imagination for what might happen.

Without these victories, we only have a fully intact puzzle without the really enjoyable hours of putting it together. And where’s the fun in that?