What Really Does Progress Look Like?

    Progress is a funny. It typically comes up with my clients often when they hit road blocks over their apparent lack of improvement. They feel as though they aren’t improving as fast as they’d like, and are getting frustrated.

    So I ask them, “What does progress look like?”  It was a question I myself had to struggle with recently following a slight injury during a workout. My shoulder was hurt and for the first time in my life I had to go see a Physiotherapist. Being very new at it all, I honestly thought that I might need 3-4 sessions and back to 100% I would be. When a 12 week plan of care was described to me I truly wondered about it all.

    The first couple of weeks were fantastic. I mean, the sessions and follow up wasn’t exactly easy, but I felt I was making clear progress. Each time I went I sensed some more mobility. So I assumed it would continue, nay, it didn’t.

    Every motion was torture. My arms felt heavier. The exercises were impossible. It was all I could do to drag myself around my office. Each time I set off thinking, this time it’ll be different. And it wasn’t. I went from optimism that in 4 sessions I would be fine, to full of pessimism at about even 12 weeks. But then it changed. All of sudden things were suddenly easier again. Much easier. I had made a (smallish but) significant quantum leap in my fitness.

    And that’s one of the secrets of progress. It isn’t linear at all. 

    We experience a period of improvement, and think it’s great. But then it tails off. It feels like we’ve stalled. It can even feel like we’ve gone backwards! But what is really happening is that we are mentally and physically putting the final pieces in place so that we can enjoy the quantum leap to a new level of improvement.

    The plateau period feels bad, there’s no doubt about it, and we can have no idea of how long it will last. But we can be certain of one thing. If we are doing the right things in the right way, we WILL improve. 

    A new book by the psychologist Paul Bloom, called The Sweet Spot, speaks a great deal about finding the moment where growth occur. His thesis is that often it happens through pain, (and my time at the physiotherapist can atest to that), but he also says this growth (or progress), happens only if we are consistent and if we are less focussed on the thresholds of others, and more so on our own target and outcome.


    If you want to understand Progress, then you must comprehend consistency. Small, seemingly inconsistent improvements, made consistently over time, will create huge results. See, progress is infectious. If you start eating healthier, you start sleeping better. If you have more energy, you start producing better work. When you produce great work, you’re given opportunities to be the best. Soon, you become the best.

    If you want truly big success, make “progress” the ultimate priority, but make “consistency” your runway. Everything else will take off from there.

    Your Threshold

    In his autobiography, billionaire Warren Buffet shared the following insight about living a good life:

    “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.”

    When you live your life by an outer scorecard, you give your power to others. “Pleasing other people” becomes your life goal. People are harsh critics; they can be judgmental, blunt, even cruel. Living your life according to their standards is a recipe for an empty, hollow life.

    Instead, choose to live by an inner scorecard — doing things that make you happy.  Do not let them judge if you are making progress – let your inner scorecard make the determination. Yes listen to others input, and get the advice of sage counselors along the way, but focus on your inner scorecard. Do things that make you proud — don’t do things that make you ashamed, or to please other people. Trying to get everyone to like you isn’t a worthy goal, yet it’s one countless people across the world focus on every day.

    So let us go back to “What does progress look like?”  Well maybe this is a good definition “Progress, is to move from where you are now towards to an improved or advanced place.” Be consistent with it and allow your threshold to determine that "improved or advanced place". Get the counsel of others as you set the target, and even someone to accompany along the way to help you get there, but you set the terms and then go ahead be consistent and #makeitso.

    P.S. Take a listen to this week's Podcast on "What is Ugly Progress"  it is Episode #22 of the "You Can Make It So" Podcast



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