The Progress Principle and the Power of Small Wins

Small Wins

I recently finished reading “The Progress Principle” by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. I LOVE the book and it had a big impact on my life.

For nearly 15 years, the authors have studied the psychological experiences and the performance of people doing complex work inside organizations and they had discovered the progress principle.

“Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

We live usually in an environment where there is so much competence and people, managers and employers expect big successes and big wins all the time. If you “failed” this could lead to stress, no motivation and feel completely frustrated…

Tracking our progress help us appreciate our small wins which give us more confidence. Any accomplishment, no matter how small, activates the reward circuitry in our brains, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released which energizes us and gives us a good feeling.

As Teresa said:  “Big goals are great but only for planning your progress, to make progress, you need to fall in love with the everyday grind of pursuing your goal. Pick a time for when you’re going to record your small wins. Start small, the efforts of tracking small achievements every day enhanced the workers motivation”.

“The power of progress is fundamental to human nature”

There is even a Neurological Explanation for the Power of Small Wins, that you can read to study the subject more deeply.

Why we always look for the big?  If we work for the small improvement one day at a time, we are making progress, and big goals are going to come. Teresa empathizes it:  “The more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win can make all the difference in how they feel and perform”.

For what I learn about this way of thinking, getting a better life, creativity and innovation comes when you stay positive, set goals which you can track the progress, practice and celebrate small wins.

The most amazing thing that happened after reading the book is that I started working on my small wins and eventually 2015 was a great year for me: Reading, eating healthy, running, traveling, programming and spending more quality time  with my daughter and family. As you can see, these are simple things that we can achieve day by day. I worked hard and focus on self-improvement and let things that doesn’t add so much value to my life. I track every single progress I did and that make me feel strongly motivated to continue my journey. This doesn’t mean that I am doing well in everything. I’m far from perfect and need to learn a lot. This 2016 my plan is to continue getting small wins to improve my quality life.

So let me share with you those wins, improvements, small achievements for 2015 and my goals for 2016. They are not so big, simple things that I LOVE to do.


2015-01-04 19.33.09

2015-07-23 18.36.15

Celeste is my lovely 8 years old daughter. I think we have a great relationship and each year we feel it gets stronger. We go to the movies, parks, theater, have amazing lunches and dinners, watch Netflix, hang out together, play with her cousins…

I don’t know if I’m a great father, the only thing I know is that I do my best to make my girl happy. This 2016 I don’t have big goals with her. Instead, I’d work on simple things: Details, experiences, great talks, having so much fun and be happy. Every single progress count.


2016-01-04 21.43.01

2015-10-17 11.57.46



I read the following books:

  • The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer
  • Tesla y la conspiración de la luz (Spanish) by Miguel A. Delgado
  • Thinking in pictures by Temple Grande
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • La guerra del fin del mundo (Spanish) by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

6 books in a year, that’s an average of 1 book in two months. My goal for this year is to improve that average by one book per month. Let’s do it! 


2015 was my first year running as an habit and it’s definitely an amazing sport. I have a mix of 5k, 10k and 12k runs, it depends of work and time.  I’m using the cool Runtastic app to track my progress, distances, times and statistics. So, thanks to the Runtastic team for their awesome work.

The great thing about this year is that I ran my first marathon and did my best score so far: 5.5 km in 25m. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh!




Thanks to my sister and daughter for being there and for encouraging me to do my best. For 2016, I need to improve my training, my scores, continue running and participate in local Marathons when possible.

Running with Celeste

Another small win was to star running with Celeste. We started going to the park some weekends and then to the “Instituto Peruano del deporte”. We usually do small runs of around 15-20 minutes. Our goal for this year is to improve that time.





Running makes me feel positive, full of energy and strongly motivated.


EATING HEALTHY2015-09-28 20.32.19

There are many studies that say eating healthy makes you stronger mentally and physically.  So I replaced my bad habits of eating fast food, a terrible mix of meals/times with healthy food and eating at a regular time. Of course, there are exceptions for eating healthy like when I go to some friends meetings, dinner at a relative’s home, an occasional party, a birthday, etc. However, this is not the rule.

Another improvement was to choose fruits instead of sugar, ice creams, cakes, chocolates and stuff like that. I LOVE CHOCOLATE and I continue eating it, but not the way like the past years. Every time my brain asks for a chocolate, I try a fruit instead. This little progress and self-control make me feel really good. No more sodas or bad drinks, I prefer a lot of water, lemonade, fruit juices and “chicha morada”, a delicious Peruvian drink.

There is a really interesting post by the Buffer team called Your body’s best time for everything, that includes the best time to eat. The Buffer’s blog is a must-read resource that focus on self-improvement and productivity.

This 2016, I want to continue with these little wins. Every single day I want to feel that choosing healthy food is going to improve my life and consequently my work.


As an Android developer, I need to read, practice, learn, study and continue improving my Android skills. In 2015, I finished three Udacity courses: Developing Android Apps, Advanced Android App Development, and Android Design For Developers. Udacity has been an important part of my self-taught education. They have great Android and programming courses, quality content and interesting CS material . Thanks to them for expanding education to the whole world.

This year, I want to learn RxJava, learn RxAndroid and get a personal Android app published on the Google Play Store. I also want to write more about Android development. I have many blog draft posts waiting for the “Publish” click. My plan is to write and publish regularly rather than being a blogger.

I really recommend the “The Progress Principle” as a book that can change your perception about success. As you can see, every step and little win can make a huge difference to get our big goals. Will Smith says it better.

“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.” 

Cover Photo credit by Brad Hussey

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