In life, people often give up or feel defeated because they don’t think they’re moving quickly enough. We all have thoughts from time to time that we need to progress faster, catch up with others, reach certain milestones at a certain point in our lives, and achieve many, disparate goals in self-imposed timeframes. All of this pressure we put on ourselves can make us think we’re not progressing at all or that any progress we make just simply isn’t good enough.
However, your progress probably isn’t as slow as you make it out to be. Progress takes many forms and it often takes place without you being fully aware of the changes.
Wisdom Comes With Age
Firstly, don’t forget that wisdom is something that ripens with age. This isn’t to say that growing old is, in itself, a cause of wisdom, but it will likely lead to it. This is because growing older entails more and more life experiences, challenges, relationships, and lessons. Continuing experiences, novelty, and unexpected situations are the wellspring of wisdom.
If you think you’re not progressing very much in life, ask yourself what the key events of the past year have been. They could involve challenges at work, in relationships, in outlook, as well as new and valuable experiences such as feeling more comfortable in your own skin or spending time exploring new countries and cultures. Reflecting on these experiences can help you to see that you have grown in many areas of your life and to a greater degree than you realized.
Progress is Often Based on Internal Factors
Another reason why you may think you’re not progressing very quickly is that you’re focusing too much on big, external displays of progress. If you define progress in terms of specific milestones and achievements (e.g. exceptional grades in school, a job promotion, a new job, marriage, having kids, buying a house, and so on), then you may judge your progress to be slow, if you haven’t achieved some or all of these goals.
It’s important to remind yourself, though, that progress – often the most valuable kind of progress – happens internally. Internal signs of progress include personality and attitudinal changes, such as your levels of confidence and the attitude you take towards yourself, others, and the world at large. Think about whether you are ‘ahead’ as a person in terms of virtue rather than outward success (although the two can undoubtedly be linked). If you feel you have been more honest with yourself and others in the past year, then that is a sure sign of progress.
Internal progress often feels far more meaningful than outward displays of progress. We may sometimes chase the latter kind of progress in order to create impressions of ourselves as successful and to boost our ego, whereas the former type of progress is more about a genuine striving towards psychological maturity and health.
Understand Your Unique Situation
It’s easy to think you’re not progressing very much when you compare yourself to others (especially if this comparing is happening on social media). Whenever you find yourself in this comparing mode, it’s vital to take a step back and see the broader perspective. Think about the unique situations you face, the circumstantial, familial, physical, and psychological roadblocks that others might not be facing (as far as you know, anyway).
What is a big deal for one person is not necessarily the case for another. For example, not everyone has a fear of public speaking. But that doesn’t mean the person who lacks the fear has progressed more in that area than the person who has the fear. Progress is relative. It is about movement and change from one state into a more preferable state.
Deciding to face a fear and taking actual steps in overcoming that fear are clear, identifiable signs of progress. Understand your unique situation and recognize the progress you have made based on that. This will allow you to savor and enjoy progress, rather than get bogged down in the self-defeating game of comparison.
About Sam Woolfe
I'm a freelance writer who is interested in mindfulness, mental health and the evolving concept of masculinity.
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