How Do I Know If I am Making Progress?
November 24, 2020
When we are on a journey of self-improvement, there are instances when we regress into old habits that we are looking to change.
We slip up.
When we slip up, we tend to judge ourselves very harshly. We are our biggest critic.
“I am no good. I don’t seem to be improving.”
We convince ourselves that we are incapable of improving, and we give up on our personal development agendas midway.
As an example- Someone is 110 Kgs and overweight by 40 Kgs. This person goes on a weight loss regimen to reduce 20 Kgs in 6 months. He decides to give up eating carbs and sugars. There is steady progress for about 2 to 3 weeks, and he loses some 7 Kgs in 3 weeks. He is feeling good. One day, he has this urge to eat a Burger and Ice-cream. He thinks, ” It’s only once. I am anyhow down 7Kgs.” He gives in to his desire. Afterward, he has a guilt trip. ” How could I let myself down like this. I just don’t have the discipline and commitment.”
The intensity and commitment to get to the ideal weight snaps. Slowly but surely, the discipline starts wearing thin. And within a month of starting on this plan, the person is back to base 1, where he began.
Personal Growth and Improvement is like a game of Snakes and Ladders. We take ten steps forward and perhaps five steps backward. And, sometimes even twelve steps back.
I am aware of friends who went on a diet, lost 5 kg, and gained back 7 Kg.
Improvement Is Not Linear
Progress or growth is never linear. It is always like an oscillating trend that looks like this.
Unfortunately, in our life, we don’t see the trend line. We exist only on a life line, and if we are on a downward trajectory, we see it as a failure when, in reality, it is not.
Recently, I was in a conversation with my mentor about this predicament and what one can do about it. He shared a very interesting framework with me.
Our personal growth has three dimensions that he calls FIR- Frequency, Intensity, and Recovery.
Imagine you are on a journey to become more peaceful and not give in to bouts of anger. Unfortunately, every so often, there is something that triggers your anger. Before you start beating yourself for slipping, refer to the FIR framework.
How often are you losing your calm and giving in to bouts of anger? If you pause and reflect on this, you will probably realize that the frequency of your blow-ups in anger has reduced. Unfortunately, when you improve, your standards and expectations of yourself also grow. Therefore, when you slip up and become very angry at something, you imagine that you are failing badly. But if you look at it from a frequency standpoint, you may have made excellent progress.
Whenever you lose control and give in to bouts of anger, how intense is your anger? What is the magnitude of slippage? Earlier, you were not even aware of your anger. Now, every time you get angry, you are aware of your deteriorating emotional state, and you can pull yourself back.
When you slip up and lose your calm, how quickly are you putting the mistake behind you and moving on? Earlier you would pickle over the slip-up and build a lot of stress internally that would stay with you a long time. Now your awareness is sharp. You can move out of the anger mode sooner and faster than before.
There can be no improvement and growth without repeated failures. I would say failures are the foundation for sustainable improvement or change that stays for life. Any change that comes easy is likely to be very superficial.
Next time you are going for any personal development goal, don’t worry about slipping up. Measure your progress in terms of the FIR framework.
- Is the frequency and intensity of failing coming down?
- And, are you recovering from the slip-up fast without letting it pull you down?
If the answer to the two questions is YES, then pat yourself and proudly say, ” I am making great progress !! “