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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

P is for Progress

“There are only two options: Make progress or make excuses.” Tony Robbins


The first time I read this quote it really hit hard. It is all to easy not to be honest with ourselves and make excuses why we can’t do x,y or z and thereby hinder our own progress.

“Stop standing in your own way. Stop making excuses. Stop talking about why you can't. Stop sabotaging yourself. Decide which direction you are going in and take action. One decision at a time, one moment at a time.” Akiroq Brost

The first step to making progress is by being honest with ourselves and taking responsibility and not play the victim. We often deliberately deceive ourselves in many ways; making excuses and justifying why we have to or can’t do something but this is just being a victim of our own self-deception.

“We tell ourselves lies in a distorted attempt to remain sane, but in fact it is the lies that turn us towards insanity.” Matthew Kelly

We are used to telling lies to ourselves about ourselves, our family, our friends, our work, our situation using excuses such as “Everything would be alright if...”, “If I had more time I would..” “If I was younger, healthier, richer etc I’d.... What excuses and lies do you tell yourself?

We all have the capacity to improve ourselves but in order to do so effectively we need to know ourselves and know when we are not being honest with ourselves, it is only then can we make the most effective improvement and progress in our lives

Once we accept that we are responsible for our actions (or lack of them) then that is when we experience progress and growth and to help us, we can use the principle of positive psychology to concentrate on looking for things that will enable us to move forward and flourish.

“You don't make progress by standing on the side lines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” Shirley Chisholm

Our future will be a direct reflection of the decisions we make right now and I love the quote by Sean Patrick Flanery that says ‘Do something that your future self will thank you for

So what does it mean to make progress and how do we do it?

When we make progress we improve the situation that we are in whether it is progress in understanding something, physically doing something that we find challenging or improving a scenario or relationship.

When we make progress, if we stop to acknowledge it, we usually feel happier, more positive about life and have a sense of achievement.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” Frank Zappa

In order to make progress we need to change the status quo, we need to experience change.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

Progress starts in our head; with our thoughts.

“A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks he becomes” Mahatma Gandhi

Our lives, our society and in turn the state of the world in general are a projection of the thoughts we all hold and the actions that those thoughts produce.

“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop them controlling you

Dan Millman

Cognitive defusion involves creating space between ourselves and our thoughts/ emotions so that they have less of a hold over us and we are not ‘fused’ or ‘entangled’ and don’t blindly accept them as reality. Thoughts are just thoughts, they have no more meaning or power than we give them.

Defusion is relating to your thoughts in a new way, so they have much less impact and influence over you. As you learn to defuse painful and unpleasant thoughts, they will lose their ability to frighten, disturb, worry, stress or depress you. And as you learn to defuse unhelpful thoughts, such as self-limiting beliefs and harsh self-criticisms, they will have much less influence over your behaviour.” Russ Harris

Our mind is continuously bombarded with thoughts and we often invest too much of our time and energy pondering on them particularly the sort of thoughts that start with “What if...” , “I wonder if I should have....” By wasting our energy on such thoughts we stagnate and cannot make progress

“Thoughts have power, thoughts have energy and you can make your world or break it by your own thinking” Susan L Taylor

When we anticipate change we can become afraid of how it will affect us and the changes we will have to make to our existing life to encompass the new reality of our goals. We all experience resistance in some form every day. When we seek to avoid the obvious solution or we refuse to accept a situation and exert our energy complaining, our continued resistance makes us unhappy and stressed and has no positive gain on the actual situation.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

Progress in an area is not just about repeated efforts or removing obstacles it is about moving forward in the right direction, it is about seeing the bigger picture (i.e. long-term gain instead of immediate gratification) and having a clear focus, being sure of our values and intentions and adapting our perspective and habits to create the reality we want.

“We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow. With out them we grow weak like the Eloi in comfort and security. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence.”

H.G. Wells, (The Time Machine)

Progress requires action, but not just any action;

Never confuse movement with action.” Ernest Hemingway

Unless we are moving purposefully towards a goal we are not necessarily making progress.

“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” Alfred A. Montapert

Progress requires knowledge and understanding of where we are and what we need to do to get to where we want to

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best”

W. Edwards Deming.

Progress requires the ability to learn from our mistakes and adapt and change our methods accordingly

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” C.S. Lewis

Mistakes are learning opportunities. Everyone makes mistakes throughout their lives, but we are not our mistakes; our mistakes do not define us, it is our reactions to them that do. We can either allow them to build up fear and undermine our self-confidence or embrace them as feedback so we can learn and grow from them. Every mistake gives us the opportunity to reflect, learn new things and change; thereby helping us become more adaptable and resilient.

“Failure is success in progress.” Albert Einstein

Progress requires vision and deliberately determined action.

“To reach a port we must set sail –

Sail, not tie at anchor

Sail, not drift.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Progress, requires a specific goal and a growth mindset. We develop and grow thanks to our ability to learn and in so doing we improve our quality of life and sense of self-worth as we pay attention and take action to explore ideas and goals that inspire us.

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Winston S. Churchill

Although Kaizen was originally created as a philosophy/action plan in the manufacturing industry, the notion of continuing improvement can be applied to all aspects of our lives -personal, home, relationships and at work.

“Small Progress Is Still Progress” Morgan Harper Nichols.

We often underestimate the importance of making small improvements on a daily basis to get the results we require; convincing ourselves that in order to achieve a massive success we need to take massive action, but regular, tiny improvement can make a massive difference over time. This is the principle of Kaizen

“A little progress every day adds up to big results.” Satya

Most of the significant things in life aren't stand-alone events that lead to success or de-rail us, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse.

“The moment a man ceases to progress, to grow higher, wider and deeper, then his life becomes stagnant.” Orison S. Marden

Progress requires perseverance and a passion to flourish and live your best life.

“Always be a work in progress.” Emily Lillian

It is important to recognise, celebrate and be proud of the progress that we do make and not just focus on the end result

“Allow yourself to be proud of yourself and all the progress you’ve made. Especially the progress that no one else can see.” Anonymous

Our progress is personal. There is no value or sense in comparing our progress with others

We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests” . Sheryl Sandberg

It is all too easy in this day and age of modern technology to look at posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc and compare our lives with others. Occasionally this can be a positive experience when we see things that inspire us and serve as a role model, but a lot of the time it can actively discourage us and lead us to falsely believe that we are ‘failing’ in some way and others have a dream existence.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Steven Furtick

This post has concentrated on personal progress, though whatever we do as individuals will affect the greater whole.

I’d like to finish with a quote that looks at the bigger picture

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Some questions to think about/or discuss below:

Do you have clearly, defined goals and aspirations ?

What excuses and lies do you tell yourself that hinders your progress towards these goals?

What changes could you make to your life and daily habits that would support the life that you want ?

How often do you look back and celebrate how far you have come ?

If you want to reflect more on this subject, here are some links to get you started:

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