Starting a new journey can be an immense challenge. While many obstacles can potentially come between you and your goals, we often hear that a lack of progress is a key challenge. Seeing progress can provide valuable motivation to fuel your next set of choices, so when you don’t see progress from your effort, quitting the journey starts to feel tempting. Afterall, why put in all that work if you aren’t getting anywhere?
And that’s the trap!
If you have the wrong expectation of what progress is and how it should look, you are likely to feel frustrated, disheartened, and confused when you should actually be celebrating what you’ve accomplished. That comes from a misunderstanding of progress, so let’s clear that up today.
Here are the reasons progress is often misunderstood:
1. The shortest distance between two points is not a straight line.
When you think of where you are now and where you want to be, the temptation is to picture the path between point A and point B as being a straight line. That might be how it looks on paper, but no journey in life is ever a perfectly straight line. If you ask a driving app for directions, the best route is always filled with twists and turns. Sometimes you need to take the long way around to avoid the most traffic. Sometimes you encounter a detour. Sometimes you need to stop for a rest.
Apps call this the best route because it is! As long as you are still on your way to your destination, it’s okay if you have to make a few turns. For health, this means understanding that the occasional plateau or a week with less obvious visual progress is perfectly natural and no cause for alarm. If you are still following the best route and your foot is on the gas, you’re fine!
2. Most cars can’t go from 0 to 90 mph in the blink of an eye.
A high-end sports car might be able to jump off the starting line into near-instant speed, but the reality is that most cars don’t work this way. In fact, it’s often dangerous to jump right to top speed from a perfect standstill.
The better way is to put on your seatbelt, check your mirrors, shift into drive, and then ease your foot on to the gas to pull out safely. Is it slow? Yes, and that’s not only normal, it’s encouraged! Will you likely need to make several stops and turns before you get to the highway? Almost certainly. It’s unfair to compare your speed pulling out of the parking space to the blistering speeds of an expert driver on the Autobahn.
In health, this is like comparing yourself to someone who has been on their journey for years. Of course they look great and are fit and have incredible energy. They’ve simply been on the road longer, so give yourself some grace and take your time getting up to speed on the on-ramp.
3. Take the journey turn by turn.
For most journeys, we look at the map to get a sense of where we’re going, but in practice, most journeys are truly one turn at a time. Few of us can perfectly memorize every turn on a roadtrip, so at most we look a few turns ahead and keep our focus on making the right choices so that we don’t miss the next turn. That can sound cliche in a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step kind of way. However, it’s the reality for many of us, and that’s completely normal.
You don’t need to worry about what you need to do months from now. Think of each day as a turn on your journey. Take it one day at a time before worrying about the next day. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself by trying to think of an account for every single turn all at once.
Get Where You’re Going Your Way
None of us drives exactly alike. Some of us go fast. Some of us go more slowly. Some of us are just getting on the road. Some of us have been on the journey for years. As long as you are moving forward – even if it doesn’t feel or seem like much – and as long as you are doing it in the way that’s right for you, keep going!