Guide To Making Progress
One of the most powerful motivators in life and the source of great life satisfaction is to make progress and while it sounds obvious it’s far from it. It’s only very recently that researchers have teased out the importance of progress to peoples working lives and few employers have addressed it.
Personally as I’ve become aware of the importance I’ve sought ways to systematically build it into my life because there are several areas where progress has been difficult to find:
- At work I tend to work on difficult strategic problems that haven’t been done before. Progress is often very slow, re-organisations are frequent and almost always slow or reverse progress for a while and resources are almost always scarce. However a few times in the last 15 years the planets align, obstacles slide away and we suddenly make enormous progress, it’s so incredibly energising, but so rare.
- My health is incredibly variable, for example I can work for weeks building up my fitness and be hiking for miles every day and then I will wake up struggling to walk around the house and stay that way for weeks. When the flare subsides the slow process of building fitness begins again. There are many other areas of health with a similar one step forward, two steps back pattern in my life and after hundreds of these cycles they have worn me down
When you struggle to find progress in health and work that’s a big part of life, so I’ve had to become focussed on finding progress in other areas, and celebrating that progress whenever I can. These are some of the ways I do it:
- I track dozens on areas in my life using the Lift app on my iPhone. Not only does this app provide great trend visualisation, it has a built in system for encouraging and celebrating progress. Every time I get through a day without pain killers, go for a walk, swim, or manage to get home in time for a family meal it’s progress and Lift helps me see it that way too.
- I started writing this blog, as a way of achieving something worthwhile each day. When I started each post seemed like a chore, but as I progressed it became a habit. Now it’s more than just a habit, I am building a body of knowledge that grows in value to me every day. Every new post becomes part of that bigger whole. I’m building a sense of purpose as I write. Making progress towards a time when I will feel that the quality of my writing is starting to help others rather than just me. I recently achieved 1000 posts!
- I garden, every morning when I look out the window I see the accumulative evidence of the progress over the last few months and years. The seeds I planted are now salads almost ready to pick, the lawn is green and healthy, the apple and cherry trees are laden down and I will be munching on strawberries in a few weeks.
- I try not to compare my rate of progress to others, it can be very discouraging to see colleagues achieving physical challenge events that I can only dream of, surging forward in their careers, working 60 hour weeks to drive change that they are passionate about. So I put that out of my mind, meditation helps give me the skills to shape the way I think
- I build small areas of progress in my life, while I walk I will do a few stretches, I celebrate every book I start and finish, I celebrate every time people I’ve coached and mentored make progress in their careers, that I can’t in mine. I write a highlight report, forcing me to document the progress I make each week
- I don’t keep a formal to-do list, although I used to, I found it was a daily reminder of how much I didn’t get done. All those un-done tasks that at some time I’d felt important enough to add to my list and had to delete.
- I break big challenges into small ones that are easier to achieve, progress in the small challenges is useful even though the big challenge might remain elusive
In summary finding a way to make progress in life is very important. In order to be resilient you need a diverse set of areas too, otherwise if your health falters, or work becomes a frustrating quagmire it will become a struggle to feel satisfied with your life overall, from here it’s easy to spiral down. If you make progress in many areas, when one falters you will be resilient enough to keep satisfied.
The photo is of Filey Town, nestled into the sweeping Filey Bay. One of my favourite places to rest and relax.