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Stop and notice your progress

One crisp, sunny afternoon I drove on a new North Texas highway (we seem to have new ones opening every year.) I was using Waze to find an address. It said turn in 1 mile. The road was straight and at high elevation. I could see the exit one mile away. It occurred to me, if I were running, would it seem that close? Probably not because when you are pounding the pavement, nothing seems easy, and moving slowly, the mile will not be viewed as quickly as it appears in a car. This caused me to think about our perceptions on creating goals, sustaining our pursuit, and celebrating goal achievement afterwards. After you reach your destination, do you turn around to see how far you have come?

Probably not often. If you are goal oriented, especially if the goal is a challenging one and will take several years to reach, you must assess how far you have progressed from time to time. If not, you may get frustrated and quit. Getting and staying healthy, mastering a new language, becoming a good parent, or reaching a high level in an organization can all be extremely difficult and take several years if not decades to achieve.

Stopping to assess how far you have come is critical and difficult at the same time. What keeps people from doing it? Some don’t want to face that they have not made a lot of progress, and more often it’s that we are so goal focused that we will not stop until we reach it. It seems weird to pat yourself on the back for getting half way. Why stop and assess? Why not keep on truckin’?

Sometimes we don’t have the self- awareness to realize we have gotten better at something. The feedback can come from a coworker, boss, spouse, or friend. Next time someone says they notice you are better at something, stop and notice it yourself. Resist the urge to brush it off. Really enjoy the comment and let it sink in. Own it. Why? Because you made it a goal. It was important enough to you then. Stop and assess how far you have come so you can put future goals in more realistic perspectives. You may alter the goal or make a larger goal, but assess your progress before you do so.

A client has a goal to become a better writer. She wants to be more succinct in her emails and in her daily communications. This will take concerted effort. If she does not stop from time to time and check in with herself and others who receive her writing, she will never know if she has progressed as a writer. I recall her saying she was never good at writing in school and wanted to use that as an excuse not to work on it now, as a professional manager. Just start step by step, I encouraged.

Isn’t it interesting how one day you realize that you have changed or grown in some way? Maybe something is not quite so hard anymore. Maybe you can keep up with your toddler and not be exhausted, or you effectively can deal with a rude person in a professional way, keeping your cool. Notice how you have grown.

It could be a simple goal, such as improving your posture. You tried hard at first, and you may have seen your slouchy reflection in the mirror too many times along the way, but today you noticed you were standing very straight and tall. Take a moment and appreciate yourself.

A friend says it takes about 3 weeks for him to see his weight go down after he starts eating healthy. If he looked at the scale on week 2, he may be discouraged. Knowing it takes his body a few weeks to kick in to the new eating habits, he gives himself time now to reach the goal and expect progress, but he does assess it.

We can get discouraged, and give up before the new habits have a chance to get set if we fail to take stock. Change and growth happen in small steps. So take a moment to look back and note how far you have progressed. Give yourself credit, bask in it and then turn and face forward and keep truckin’.

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