Sometimes, You Need A Win

If you know me in real life, you know I go to Starbucks a lot. A lot. My kids attend Taekwondo classes across the street from the Starbucks location I frequent the most, and they pretty much live at Taekwondo, especially around tournament time.

The baristas know my name. I gave them copies of The Seventh Seed because I basically wrote the thing at one of their little tables.

Anyway. *sips Starbucks drink*

Periodically throughout the year, the powers that be at Starbucks headquarters run games where customers can earn things like stars (which can be accumulated and traded for free stuff) or straight up free coffees. They ran one during the Christmas season, and that contest ended today.

Remember, I go to Starbucks a lot. That’s important.

This game was called Starbucks for Life. The idea is you earn plays, or chances to shake the coffee snow globe, which reveals a token. Collect three tokens in a category and you win that thing (the first category here is the grand prize).


You earn plays by making purchases and by completing challenges, which include things like ordering after 2 PM or ordering from more than one location. Between how often I visit and the challenges, I’d have quite a few plays on any given day.

I won the tokens for every category.

Well, I won 2/3 of the tokens in every category.


As I started to fill the board, I thought, ooh. I can maybe win something now. I didn’t expect the grand prize or even free Starbucks for a shorter period of time, but I thought some bonus stars weren’t out of the question.

But I stopped winning new tokens. Every token was a duplicate, which comes with the mild consolation of an extra play when you get three duplicates. I won that “prize” several times.


As the game went on, I was less motivated to complete challenges or visit more often than I otherwise would have, because I realized the chance of winning anything was basically nil. What was supposed to be fun became aggravating.

win nothing

But not all is lost, because it made me realize something: to stay motivated at a task, you have to win occasionally. Which I knew in the deep recesses of my mind, but now I have a tangible example sitting on my screen.

Let’s shift away from the gambling-like game and into relevant life. We all start new endeavors with the expectation of success, or we wouldn’t do them. Especially early on, we celebrate the little milestones (like I did with crocheting), because as the saying goes:


You need the little wins at the beginning to stay motivated to strive for bigger wins, and hopefully, reaching an overarching goal. The definition of a “win” depends on the task. For a writer, it might be finishing a book. Or a chapter. Or a page. For a crafter, it might be completing a blanket or scrapbooking a few pages. A car enthusiast might finish a step in the rebuilding project, or the landscaping hobbyist might pretty up one flowerbed (or a whole yard).

Stick with a task long enough, and you’ll go through spells where the wins are sparse. Any writer who’s waited for query responses or reviews knows what I’m talking about. It’s easy to get discouraged, and I would think this is when most people quit their craft or hobby.

I mean, who quits when things are going well?

So what do we do when the wins run thin?

I see two options.

  1. Be persistent. Keep on keeping on and eventually you’ll get a win.
  2. Set yourself up for a win.

No one said the wins had to come entirely from outside sources. It could be a matter of setting a smaller goal, or it could mean refocusing your efforts in a different direction but within the same task. It could mean asking for support from friends.

I tend to be too stubborn to allow myself to go win-free for long. If something isn’t working (like if I get writer’s block or a book isn’t selling as well as I want it to), I re-evaluate and probably attack from a new angle.

The point is, you don’t have to sit on a win-less streak. Do something to get a win before you want to quit.

Unless, of course, you’re playing a Starbucks game.

7 thoughts on “Sometimes, You Need A Win

  1. I like the idea of setting yourself up for little wins. After all, the big win happens so rarely – that’s what makes it BIG! I found it helpful to divide my writing tasks into smaller pieces; instead of focusing on the whole thing, I get to reward myself when I finish one small step. I know, not a groundbreaking approach, but it’s working for me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. that is the basic behaviour modification principle of intermittent reinforcement. It’s underlying principle can run many things in your life. People do what is reinforcing and avoid punishment. Intermittent rewards, reinforce behaviour (makes behaviour more likely to be repeated) than any other schedule of reinforcement. The trick is trying to decipher what people see as rewarding, as even punishment can get twisted into being rewarded sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right. It’s the whole principle behind slot machines. Outside of games of chance, though, I think a lot of “losing streaks” are attributed externally when really we have more power to get a win than we think. It just might take reflection and effort.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Send me to Vegas, and i’ll let you know. 🙂
        I learned about reinforcement, as a means to ‘control’ behaviour of others…mostly children.
        Great article though, got me thinking.


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