The Power of Progress

By Marianne Renner: Leadership Coach, Speaker, Author

What’s the difference between someone who gives up on a goal, dream or idea, and someone who pushes through all the way to the finish line? Why do some people get excited about a new idea, and at first go after it with all their might? But in the end, the results never materialize. Yet others seem to have “all the luck.”

Well it’s not luck. In fact, it’s not necessarily even skill or having more smarts. It’s simply the fact that the person who arrives at the determined destination understands the power of progress.

I guarantee you that every person who achieves success in reaching goals has a way to track progress at every step along the way.

Progress is what keeps us going. It’s our motivation. It’s that feeling of success before the big “ta-da!” It’s the desire to pay off your mortgage early, and seeing that principle payment go down month by month – progress. It’s shooting for that 4.0 GPA and seeing those daily homework assignments come back with a score of 100%  – progress.

Any goal you set in your life must be accompanied by a series of small steps by which you can achieve and measure results. If that’s missing, you’re sunk.

Most everyone I talk to at one point or another has attempted that fateful journey into the overwhelming world of weight loss. People try the latest and greatest diet program, and for the first few days their focus and energy keeps them motivated and on track. But day after day of no results on the scale usually ends up delivering feelings of futility and defeat. They throw in the towel.

Keys to Success:

Focus on daily tasks.

Although it’s important to keep your eye on the prize, as the saying goes, the best way to stay motivated is to keep your eye on small, daily tasks that will ultimately drive you to your goal.

Having a task to do every day gives you something to celebrate often. You now have the satisfaction of knowing you are on the right track, the confidence to know you can do it, and the empowerment and enthusiasm to keep going. Each day gives you a feeling of success, and this feeling of accomplishment is what will keep you going.

Let’s stick with our weight loss example. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, getting on the scale every day and looking for those pounds to melt will only bring disillusionment and frustration.

Instead, come up with what I call “behavioral measures”. In other words, ask yourself the question, “what is a behavior that I can do every day? And if I do that task every day, it will move me closer to my goal.”

One example might be to take a walk for 30 minutes every night after dinner, or decide to eat five servings of vegetables every day. Eating a pre-determined amount of calories every day would be another option.

Now, you have something by which you can measure your progress. Every day you can achieve success by taking a walk.

When I was studying for my master’s degree, I figured out after a couple of classes that I needed to invest an average of 10 hours of weekly studying to get an A in each class. So I broke down my studying into a minimum of 2-hour increments every day which left me with two free days each week. It was a manageable behavior that I knew I could follow. Each day I felt successful and confident.

Track your progress.

Progress is only powerful if you can see it. If you track it, you can see it. Keep a calendar of every day you achieve your daily behavior or task. If you are trying to lose weight and your measure is to walk for 30 minutes every day, you might have a day that you miss. In fact, you might have 2 days in a row. After all, life happens. Heck, maybe you’re hosting a family reunion and miss a whole bunch of days. That’s when danger lurks and you tell yourself “I’ve blown it. I’m finished. I’m sunk.” But if you have been tracking on a calendar, you can look at the big picture and see that you’ve only missed 3 days out of the last 60. Gosh, that means you’re still hitting the mark 95% of the time!

The key is to know that you’re moving in the right direction. Progress is never one straight line, so knowing your overall trend will save you from what’s called, “all-or-nothing thinking.” Either you’re doing it perfectly or you’re not going to do it at all. You eat one cookie on a diet, and suddenly you decide to eat the whole bag because you figure you’ve blown it.

So, you ask, what the heck does walking and eating cookies have to do with my professional career? Maybe you’re looking for more job fulfillment or to develop better relationships with your leaders in the workplace. The power of progress works for any goal in your life. The key is, once you know your goal, put some thoughtful consideration into what daily tasks you can choose that will drive you close to the goal. If you’re looking to improve your relationships in the workplace, maybe your daily behavior is to have lunch with a co-worker or leader from your department.

Be creative. Be specific. Keep it simple, manageable and something you can track. Keep your focus on the behavior rather than the end game. The empowerment you will feel from your success will compound and propel you to achievement.

To learn more about achieving your goals, check out my free Goal worksheet.

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