How to Define Progress…

In a world of instant gratification, a world of spotlights and showreels, a world of social media, it can be surprisingly hard, sometimes, for us to define something as simple as progress.


Making progress is, simply put, moving forward. It can be a step of any size, as long as it is forward. It can be a failure, of any scale, as long as we don’t give up. Anything that gets us closer to a goal is progress.

The thing is, I think we forget that these journeys of progression take longer for some than they do for others. I think we get caught up in a world where everyone’s success story is in front of us every day. That person you loosely knew back at school got a new job, that family friend you see once a year lost all that weight, the celebrities you style yourself after have a new book/album/movie coming out and all the success that entails. Where are we? Well, we’re stagnant, we’re stuck in a rut, we’re not progressing, why do we even bother?

I’ve noticed more and more that this seems to be a problem with the modern world, or at least a lot of the world around me. People seem quick to give up (and I can say this honestly; as I’ve been one of them). In a world where things appear instant, the struggle of progress seems long and arduous; sometimes it doesn’t feel like progress at all. The thing is, any progress we make, whether we lose 1lb a week on our new exercise regime, or we write one sentence a day trying to hit that wordcount, is still progress. Sure, it might not be as fast as we like it to be, it might feel like we struggle to go the same distance that someone else does in seemingly record time, but that’s their journey; our pace is our pace.

And that’s where I think we fall down. I think we set our goals so high, we compare ourselves to people living completely different lives, that really we’re doing ourselves a disservice. We get frustrated that we don’t move as quickly as someone else and we give up. We get so caught up in our dream of publishing a bestseller that one page a day doesn’t do it for us anymore and so we stop writing completely. We get annoyed that people at the weight-loss club are shedding the pounds, getting the certificates, that our diet goes by the wayside and we actually put on rather than lose. We see others doing something that bit better than us and think “Whats the point?”.

The point is our lives, our journeys, are our own. We can’t control the speed others go at, but we can control the small successes we recognise in ourselves. We can’t control how quickly we might pick up a new hobby, but we can control the amount of time we dedicate to it. We can’t control how often we fail, but we can control that we pick ourselves back up. Progress doesn’t have to be fast, it doesn’t even have to be noticeable to anyone other than you. If you’re progressing with something, even at the lowest level, then you are still progressing with something.

Of course, if you can speed things up then go for it! If you’re not satisfied with that 1lb loss, up the excersise, change the diet, if that one sentence a day is inspiring you, push to two, push to a paragraph, write a chapter. Progress doesn’t have a cap, it doesn’t have a limit you can hit, you can keep going. The goal here isn’t to encourage you to simply do the bear minimum, but it’s to help you appreciate when you’re maximum isn’t quite the same as someone elses. Perhaps your maximum is someone elses bear minimum, and that’s absolutely fine. What comes naturally to them, might mean they struggle somewhere else, what they’ve spent years practising might be daunting to you now, but in a few years of your own you could be up there too.

If you ask me how to define progress, it’s in small steps, it’s in moving forward. There’s no limit on how big or how small progress has to be, it just has to be an increase of some sort. If it’s one happy thought where previously you had none, if it’s getting out of bed where you previously stayed, if it’s that one sentence writen/photo taken/1lb lost/song rehearsed/chapter read/mantra repeated/etc, if it’s that one thing that moves you even 1% forward towards a goal; that is progress.

Over to you!
How do you define progress?
Do you ever compare yourself to others and feel that frustration? How do you keep from giving up?
Let me know in the comments below!

8 thoughts on “How to Define Progress…

  1. Pingback: Changing Language, Changing Perspective – Clockwork Clouds

  2. This reminds me of that quote “comparison is the thief of joy”. It really does us no good at all and social media is no help and only perpetuates the problem. Like you said Shaun, any step forward, even baby steps, is progress. And really, the only ones we should compare ourselves to is ourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always heard it as “Comparison is the death of joy”, but either way it works! It’s actually one of my favourite quotes and it says so much. I think many of us forget that, on the way ahead… We’re so focused on what everyone else is doing we need to learn to walk our own walk!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. OMG I love this! Comparison is a terrible thing and unfortunately we get sucked in by the ease of social media and watching (or wishing) for someone else’s life. I’m guilty of comparing myself to others in every area of my life and this is an ongoing internal battle that I’m still trying to figure out. I’m working on a new YA novel at the moment and almost gave up writing it after reading a new author (who was epic!!) and feeling utterly below average. It took me a while to move on from the feeling of inadequacy but I’ve managed to pick it up again. I’ve now decided to treat myself to this author’s latest book AFTER I’ve finished writing the manuscript! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve nailed one of my constant battles with writing, Shelley haha. Sometimes I read a book and I think “I could do this – Perhaps not quite as well, but I could do this”, but then I’ll read a book that utterly floors me and I’ll think “I don’t have a hope in hell!”.

      What I found quite motivating the other day, was reading a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with an author I’ve recently discovered who is crazy talented – Almost all the questions posed to him were actually by other, established authors (one of whom is up there in my list of favourites) asking him “How the hell did you get so good? You put me to shame!”. Showing that, even the big names feel like the pale in comparison to someone!

      “Comparison is the death of joy” and we should learn to live our own lives! You’ve already shown you can write a book (Be it YA or Self Help!) so you know you can write this next one 🙂 Thanks for commenting and sharing my post, Shelley, much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was thinking about this the other day. Our kids show less patience for anything now. From waiting for an ad break on telly to finish (why wait when you can fast forward it!) To waiting to earn something.
    Life really has become more instant to the modern generation.
    The feeling of pleasure at achieving something through your own grit and effort seems a thing of the past…
    I definitely set myself goals, and reward myself upon reaching them, but I’m under no illusion that things happen overnight!
    Progress for me is feeling my clothes loosen after weeks of careful eating, reaching another word count goal, seeing the relentless explaining to my kids oaybiff as they are able to sit in the same room together without quarrelling (still waiting for that one 😝)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely, 100% agree! I think I’m on that borderline, where I’ve grown up as technology was just becoming ‘instant’. I find myself expecting instant results for things, but am also able to remind myself that patience is key (I remember both Dial Up and terrestrial television, for instance!). But looking after my Nephew a few weeks back (5 Years Old)… He didn’t even have the patience to watch a Cartoon… I found myself wondering “Which kids don’t like watching Cartoons?!” but apparently 20 minutes is too long to sit still…

      Does make me worry a little bit! But as long as we can hopefully teach them mindfulness as they get older (or they learn it themselves) then they’ll be alright! Does make me wonder what the next big technology revelations will do to us though!


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