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.