A New Way to Look at Progress

Two women running in marathon

Let’s say you’re running a long race and you’re right next to your number one rival when you trip and fall to the ground. Your shoe fell off and your knee is bleeding. You look ahead and see your rival still running toward the finish line. You quickly tie your shoes in a double knot, brush some dirt off of your open wound and take off after your rival. You’re pushing yourself the best that you can and begin to close the gap. In the end, you cross the finish line in a tie with your rival.

You have two ways you could look at this. First, you could curse and berate yourself for tripping. On the other hand, you could applaud yourself for getting back up and catching up. Which response will serve you more?

Adam Grant started off his latest monthly newsletter by saying:

Progress isn’t always about getting better. Sometimes it’s about bouncing back.

When I opened that email and saw this, I sat and pondered it for a few minutes because of how true it is, yet not at all how we generally think of progress. Life is full of setbacks. We fail to tie our shoes tight enough and trip. There’s an uneven part of the road or a bird swoops down at us and we take a tumble. Somebody gives us a shove and we end up in the bushes.

As long as we don’t just sit there complaining about the circumstances or yelling at ourselves (or others), or that we give up and throw away our running shoes on the way home, we’re making progress. As long as when we get up again and move forward, we’re making progress even if we’re behind others or where we thought we’d be by now, even if we’re slower and limping a bit, we’re making progress.

Featured image courtesy of Katie Chan under a CC-BY-SA license.

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