This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from Centre for Men & Families, a 96five community contributor.
When you are working through a difficult stage of life, whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, conflict with someone, changing a bad habit, sometimes it’s hard to track progress. If we don’t know what to look for, we can feel like life is two steps forward, two steps back. How would you know if you just treading water, going around in circles or actually going backwards?
There are three markers you can use to help track your progress. You may need to journal these over a period of months to get an honest appraisal of how you are going.
You are always going to be your own worst critic, especially when things go pear shaped.
So, let’s take a look at how you are actually going.
1. What is the intensity of how you feel?
If you are ever wheeled into emergency at a hospital from some severe pain, the doctor might ask “on a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is it?” Sometimes you need to journal how bad this conflict feels this time round. It might be a 7.5, whereas last time you got stuck in this problem it felt like an 8.5. That’s incremental progress, but in the moment, it will feel just as bad if you don’t assess it as objectively as you can.
2. How long is it lasting?
Do you fall into a depressive funk for days, lie on the couch eating potato chips and watching trashy reality TV, whereas before it might’ve lasted for weeks? Again, that is progress, but by day three you could be thinking that nothing has changed. Measuring duration over the long haul might reveal a slow upward trend. No progress is linear.
3. How often is it happening?
Your addiction might become unmanageable twice this week when six months ago it felt like every day. The humiliation and powerlessness you feel in the midst of relapse can be all encompassing. Scripts like “I can’t do this, what’s the point, I never change, I’m pathetic, why do I even bother” can deny the fact that you have made great progress.Frequency will give you a more honest appraisal of your growth.
When we are paying attention to our lives and living purposefully, life is never a graph that points upwards and to the right. It’s mostly three steps forward and two steps back.
The problem is, we measure it by the two steps back and rarely by the three steps forward.
It’s important to build failure into your expectations. This is not meant to be easy, it’s designed to be a struggle. Imagine a zero gravity gym: We could lift any weight at all, but we’d never know failure, and failure is the only way in which muscles grow. So it is with character. Be honest in your self-assessment. The writer of the book of Hebrews acknowledged that struggle (which is called discipline) is unpleasant, but leads to a harvest of good relationships and inner peace.