Does it frustrate you that you can’t see the progress that you are making?
You want to see a positive change in the world. Whether it’s a personal goal for yourself or you want to make an impact on the people around you, you want to make something happen.
So you plan your goals, you make steps to take action, and you begin your path towards a better future.
After a few days pass, you don’t see much progress. You get discouraged that you’re not going anywhere, and you feel like giving up. It’s something that everyone has experienced.
After all, if you can’t make progress, it is very hard to motivate yourself to continue. If you don’t feel like you are making a difference in the world, then you will not continue despite the efforts you have put in. It’s a feeling I know firsthand.
I’ve wanted to try several different hobbies to improve myself as a person and also tried helping the people around me. I started many activities, only to not see any progress being made and giving up because I was discouraged.
Nothing was happening, so I didn’t see much of a reason to continue. I wasn’t seeing the results that I wanted to see, and I felt like I could be doing something else more important with my time. Unfortunately, having given up on so many activities, I wasn’t sure what else I could do.
But at the start of this year, I held myself to three resolutions. I was going to lose the weight I always said I would lose. I would make more friends instead of meeting new people. I would improve my writing and make sure that people knew that I would be willing to help them.
It was painful going back to some of the activities I used to do and pick them up again. It was hard trying to exercise when I hadn’t seen the weight numbers fall. It was hard going out to groups and actively trying to make friends. It was even harder getting myself to show others what I had written.
Despite those feelings, I persevered and told myself that I wasn’t going to give up if I wanted to see improvement. By persevering, I learned a few things about progress, and what had really happened when I first tried these activities for the first time.
Progress Doesn’t Show Itself In The Ways We Expect
When you make a plan for the future, you believe certain actions will lead to certain outcomes. In your mind, if you do something, a specific result will follow.
This is not unusual. If you exercise, you should expect that you will lose weight. If you didn’t lose weight, you know something is wrong, and can adjust your actions to achieve the result that you want.
That’s how we plan all of our actions. If we do Action X, Result Y will appear.
What often happens is that you will do a certain action, but the result turns out to be something that you didn’t expect. Going back to our exercise example, you expected that you would lose weight, but your muscles end up being sore and it is hard to move.
You didn’t get the result you wanted, and your progress gave you a different result.
When I created my new exercise routine, I planned a full body workout that I would do three days a week. Starting was not too difficult, and I felt motivated when I realized this wasn’t as hard as I thought.
It had been a long time since I had exercised though, and my entire body ended up being sore after the exercise. My body was so sore that I had to cut back on the number of workouts that I did to give my body enough time to rest and recover.
My weight wasn’t dropping either, despite the fact that I was exercising the parts of my body where I needed to lose weight. I was only feeling sore and my body was unwilling to continue the exercises. It wasn’t the first time that I felt like giving up.
The moment my body recovered, I went back to the workout and did the exercises again. To my surprise, everything seemed much easier, and after a while my body became less and less sore. I wasn’t losing weight but my muscles were getting stronger. I was able to push my body harder than before.
The realization that something was improving motivated me to continue, and I was confident enough to add new exercises, such as jump rope cardio and a team sport, to my exercise routine. I knew what changes were happening, and I used that to prove to myself that progress was being made.
Just because you don’t see any progress doesn’t mean nothing happened, you just haven’t reached your goal yet.
Change can happen in unexpected ways, which means you are taking a different journey to reach the same goal.
Progress Can Take Some Time To Reveal Itself
Our biggest problem with change is that we often want it, but we don’t understand why it isn’t coming fast enough.
The progress you have been making towards your goals has been on track, but despite you investing a lot of time, effort and resources, you’re not seeing yourself get any closer to your goal. The changes that you wanted to see aren’t appearing.
This is worse than getting a different result, because at least something happened even if it wasn’t what you expected. You don’t see any progress or any changes to show for all of the work you put in.
It’s very demoralizing, and you won’t want to continue. After all, one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting something different to happen. Why would you think anything different would happen?
But the funny thing about progress is, it won’t always show itself immediately. Sometimes the results you are looking for won’t be visible immediately, but you will enjoy the results when they do appear.
I wanted to make more friends, and that meant I had to leave my apartment and join different events. Even though what I wanted to do was relax at home, I had to push myself out of the door and find my way towards an event.
I tried many different events, such as theater games, Ultimate Frisbee, language exchanges, even trips to the zoo in order to meet people. At almost every event, I would get along with people, have a fun conversation with them, but at the end of the day I would never end up talking to them again.
It made me think about why I was going out so often, because my goal wasn’t to be a social butterfly, but to find the friends that mattered. However, at the end of each meeting, it became increasingly unlikely that I was going to find friends this way.
That was a distressing thought, because I actually didn’t know how I was going to make any friends if meeting people at different events wasn’t going to be enough.
But as I went to more events, something interesting happened. People were remembering me, and they had nicer things to say about me. Instead of people trying to get to know me for the first time, I had individuals who already knew my introduction and wanted to learn more about me.
I was becoming a familiar face, someone that people wanted to interact with and sometimes befriend. Before I knew it, I was actively making friends, and people would continue to know who I was thanks to my consistent attendance at the events.
Change doesn’t always happen as fast as we would like.
But you don’t have to be making visible progress for progress to happen. @SpiritOnStage (Click to Tweet!)
Sometimes you just need to wait and let your progress take shape before changes begin to appear.
Progress Shows Up When You Doubt Yourself
Your efforts to work towards your goal are always planned for the long term. Sometimes you know that change won’t happen immediately and you are fine with that. You know that your progress might take a different direction than you initially planned.
You’re determined to continue and make a difference in the world. But sometimes you stop and wonder how making progress every day is going to result in you achieving a bigger goal. You think about your progress eventually becoming the difference that you want to see.
It scares you when you think about it. Suddenly, you have doubts about your goals and your progress. Will you actually get there? Is it realistic? Are you doing something wrong? Is it easier just to give up and go back to achieving the status quo?
This isn’t an unrealistic fear. When you realize that your goal is much bigger than the small steps of progress you are making, you start to wonder if you really are on the right path from Point A to Point B. You wonder if you took the wrong turn, or if you can actually reach a Point B.
That feeling of doubt can turn into a feeling of fear, which makes you want to give up and focus on something that your mind thinks is achievable. After all, if you can’t do something that’s impossible, why would you continue to try?
I’ve always wanted to help people improve their speaking. I have also wanted to help people see the world differently. It is my dream that one day, I could have a website that everyone loves and wants to visit in order to gain confidence and find their inner voice.
I started to write and build a website, and I could see the changes happening. It was small, it wasn’t always what I expected, but I knew I was on the right track.
But halfway during the set up process, I wondered if I was ever going to have a website that people would want to go to. What would it take to make that happen? How would I possibly compete with other people? What if suddenly people lost interest? What if my writing ended up being terrible?
These thoughts of fear and insecurity crept into my mind, and there were many moments where I paused and didn’t work on my website because I was so scared how things would work out. I was afraid to write and share my thoughts, as I had doubts about whether I could really make that website.
With all this fear came a realization. I had already made progress towards my goal, and it wasn’t nothing. I had just started writing, and the practice would only help me get better. My website wasn’t going to be perfect, but I wouldn’t know what it would look like if I hadn’t started setting it up.
Before I knew it, the progress I had made motivated me to continue. I had actually seen the website be built and my writing improve. I regained the faith that I could do this and continued to work. I was on the right track, and the progress I made was proof of that.
It’s alright to be scared that you aren’t sure whether you can make progress towards your goals. But even the slightest step forward will show you that you’re only just getting started, and that your goal is still in sight. You just need to prove that to yourself.
Progress Is Being Made, And Deep Down, You Know That
I’m happy to say that I have lost a lot of weight since the start of the year (10 kg/22 lbs.), I have met many people and made a few good friends, and my writing and website are steadily improving.
It was certainly a bumpy start. I was worried about my apparent lack of progress and wondering if I was wasting my time. I wondered if I was even making a difference to myself, let alone the world around me. I wondered if I was going in the right direction.
But every result I achieved strengthened me. Every action I took revealed their changes to me over time. Every step I had made encouraged me in my moments of self-doubt that I had actually done something, and that I was making a difference.
You might be thinking that I had special progress and that’s why I could see it, but the only thing that separates me from everyone else is that my goals and thus my journey will be different.
If you have a goal and you make an effort to achieve it, you’re making progress towards that goal as well. You might have felt the same discouragement and fear that I did, and you might have given up like I have done in the past.
This time, I hope you’re encouraged to work towards your goals again. I want you to believe that you can achieve your goals and that your journey is getting you closer towards your goals.
You will see progress, and sometimes you won’t. You might see change, and you might not. You will feel confidence, and sometimes feel fear.
Progress isn’t easy to see. But it stays with you on the journey to your goal, every step of the way.
Victor Tan writes to helps people overcome their weaknesses to be a better public speaker. He does this by helping people with self-improvement and teaching them proper speaking techniques. You can find him at his website, Spirit On Stage, Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of skeeze.