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The Dos and Don'ts of Progress

How do we keep progress (or lack of) in perspective?

Sometimes we can have very frustrating weeks in terms of some of our goals. We could just give up, because in our head we're just not making progress.


However, in order for us to bring our goals into reality, it's really important we have a healthy perspective on progress.


These are my top dos and don'ts:


1. Do celebrate the wins

You are on a journey and if you don't celebrate until the end of it (when will that be?) it's easy to lose motivation. It's also easy to gloss over how far you've come, or tell yourself the small wins are not important. They are. Don't belittle them.


You need to celebrate each small win as it happens, daily, weekly and monthly. Gain confidence and build that win into your identity. For example, if you are starting running, then celebrate every run as a vote for your identity as 'a runner'. Over time, you start to feel and grow into the identity more.


Learn to be your own greatest cheerleader.


That sets of squats you didn't think you'd get through? You did it!

That run you wanted to stop and bail? You kept going!

Had a hard day? You got through it!


Most of us are so focused on the next battle, the next obstacle, that we forget just how far we've come. To incorporate our wins into our confidence.


2. Don't celebrate too much

Don't let your celebration of the small wins, distract, interrupt or even hinder your progress towards your big goal. For example, getting drunk to celebrate a healthy eating goal might not make a lot of sense, as that reward doesn't match that person's long-term goal of health. Pick a way to celebrate that's in line with the achievement and your end goals.


Beware a false sense of achievement also - my husband's fitness tracker gives him his theoretical times for a half marathon and a marathon, and despite him not training those distances at all, he gets a sense of achievement when he sees those entirely theoretical times go down!! Buying the healthy food isn't the same as consistently eating it. Making a to-do list isn't the same as getting some of your top priority stuff done.


Each of these actions are fantastic positive steps forwards but don't let them distract you from the end goal.


Those are the necessary skills and actions to get there; they are not the destination.


3. Do re-define impossible.

If you've heard a goal that you like the sound of, don't write it off as impossible. If you've set yourself a goal that you really want to achieve, don't ever tell yourself it's impossible. A great quote was shared with me: 'the sh*t you tell yourself steals your dreams’. No one ever got anywhere by telling themselves 'it's no good, I can't do it.’ You're already anticipating 'failure’ (see below) which gives you the perfect opt out clause, every single time.


Never underestimate the power of your mind. It is so much stronger and influences so much more than you think. Question the doubts, stories, and limitations.


My husband once deadlifted a bar that was 20% heavier than he thought it was by mistake; 20% heavier than he thought was possible. Whilst I do NOT advocate reckless, risky lifting or his terrible maths skills, that incidence proved the power of mind over matter.


Be consistent. Keep going. You are capable of so much more than you think. You are capable of creating the change you want in your life, you are capable of surviving the most awful of events, of achieving the most incredible of things, of rising up to the most difficult of challenges. And during those processes you'll feel broken, disheartened, discouraged, pain and doubt. You'll want to stop, at some point. But those negative emotions don't define or limit you. They make you incredibly human. Awe-inspiringly messy and beautiful.


4. Do re-define failure.

There's no failure, only feedback. Truly. Our education system and society are so geared towards achievement that we forget that all of the great things in life come from grafting, learning, playing, exploring and trying again. We fill our life with these judgements of ourselves and capabilities because that's how society chooses to grade us.


Just because you try it once and can't do it or don't like it, doesn't mean it's not possible for you in the future.


Failure and success, after all, are only labels that we ourselves have put on things. Be prepared to sit with the discomfort of being bad at something. We get so capable in life at somethings, that we forget what it's like to be a beginner. Don't be unforgiving towards yourself.


Believe in your capability to figure things out.


To finding another route through, another path, another solution.


Be brave to suck at something. Be brave enough to try again.


5. Do be consistent through the challenges.

Trust the process. It's a journey. It's a journey. It's a journey. If you know the right steps to take, keep taking them. Even if on some days you've lost sight of the destination, it feels like you're going nowhere or what you're doing isn't working. Give it some time, and the 'destination’ will suddenly peek it's head up again.


You can liken this to heating a cup of water. A difference of 46-66 degrees celsius might not make that much visible difference but heat from just 98-100 and you'll see a massive difference. Work and effort is not wasted, it's just stored. You'll reach a point where you feel that cumulative effects of that practice suddenly happen like magic.


But there was no overnight success, no magical break through point, no instant change of character; just the unrelenting grit and resilience of the person committed to their habits and growth.


Embrace the challenges; they're growing you.


6. Don't keep it to yourself.

Tell other people your goals and it will help keep you accountable, and they'll help celebrate your progress too. Find other people on the same journey and find out what has worked for them, it might help you too.


If you find a group of people where your desired behaviour is the norm, this makes SUCH a massive difference. So yeah, this works in terms of food and fitness e.g. join a runner's group if you want to become a runnier, but I think a greater way to see it is also in mindset. Surround yourself with positive, resilient, compassionate, committed to service or their mission, and open-minded people (or whatever the desired trait is), and you'll find your mind moulds to that too. Our mind controls all other behaviours, so it makes sense to start there.


Another way to see this - is to let people hear you. Be unapologetically ambitious. And I don't mean this in an arrogant or brash way; I mean by being bold with your desires, goals, dreams, needs and purpose.


As Marianne Williamson says 'as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.'


So no matter your goals - no matter how big or how small it sounds to you - share them.


7. Don't procrastinate

Don't wait until you've got it all worked out, and you're completely ready and prepared for it. That day won't come. Just do it. And the steps will work themselves out as you go. You'll find progress comes faster than you think.


One of my favourite truths that so many people don't know is that 'motivation comes from action' and not the other way round. So don't go around saying how unmotivated you are, and waiting for inspiration to strike to do something.


Do something small, start that tiny flicker of fire, and watch the confidence and the momentum build.


If it's worth doing, then no action is too small to get going.


If you want to start to build a morning routine, then drink that glass of water as soon as you wake up. Start there.


If you want to get stronger, then do those ten squats. Start there.


If you want to eat healthier, then add that broccoli to one meal. Start there.


If you want to become more confident, then say one positive thing to yourself. Start there.


The rest will build. The next steps will become apparent as you do the first few.


Anyone tried these tips or have any others to add? What are you making progress in? Share and celebrate your (small or big) wins below.

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