Do you want to progress in life? Congratulations. Progress means a change towards a more desirable situation. Nobody would ever doubt that this is an aim worth striving for.
However, there are some things you need to take in consideration. Sometimes progress is nothing more than to look at your current situation from a different perspective. Other times a change in your life is necessary. In some cases, you think at first glance that you need it, but actually, what you do is follow motives that are not really yours.
Here are some steps that will help you determine what progress you really need and how you can achieve it.
1. Determine Why You Want to Move Forward in Life
There can be several reasons regarding why you want to move forward. It’s possible that your current situation got stale or was never something you consciously chose in the first place. We often find ourselves looking around and wondering how the heck we got where we are. Possibly because we became passive actors in our life or because events brought us somewhere we don’t want to be. Then it’s time to take matters back into our own hands, and progress is the way to do so.
The first thing to do is to ask yourself; “why do I, all of the sudden, feel that my current situation doesn’t suffice? Does that really come from me, or are there some external pressures? Is my motivation intrinsic or extrinsic (1)?
To give an example, there was a young man of 33 years old. He was living the bachelor life. Broad interest, going to parties and cultural events and spending a lot of time developing his talents. He expressed the desire to move to the next stage in life by settling down. Maybe get a wife and a few kids. When I asked him why he felt that this was the right thing for him he answered:
“Because I’m 33. It’s about time.’’
I told him to reconsider this statement. Settling down is a drastic step that shouldn’t be taken lightly. After a while, he admitted to himself that this idea was more given to him by social norms and his surroundings. He felt like he had achieved nothing because he didn’t reach any of the cultural milestones. We instead started to focus on all his accomplishments that were authentically his and that brought him a lot more perspective
Always be sure that your need for progress is authentically yours!
2. Be Okay with Where and Who You Currently are in Life
This sounds paradoxical. Why would you want to progress in life if you feel all is fine as it is?
The thing is that self-judgement never works as a motivator.
Imagine this, you are running a marathon and behind you is a man who is beating you with a stick while yelling insults at you. Would that make you enjoy the process of running forward? That’s somewhat how it works if your inner voice is just judging you all the time. The negative emotions connected to your current situations will be connected to your journey instead of the positive emotions connected to the prospect of change.
Once I was helping a woman who wanted to lose weight. While we were working together she constantly had the image of the ‘fat woman in the mirror’ that she hated so much in her mind. These negative thoughts drained all her energy and didn’t leave any for all the exercises we were doing. I decided to take a step back with her and just focus on making her see all the beauty that was already there. All of the sudden she became more confident and felt deserving of the change we were accomplishing.
3. Strive Within Your Circle of Influence
A desire for progress most often has its roots in our subconscious. We are rarely motivated towards progress by our situation, it’s our emotions that drive us towards it.
We feel something is wrong or missing in our life and we don’t like that feeling so we want to take matters into our own hands and change it. It’s not uncommon though, that we attribute these feelings to the “wrong circumstances” in our life. This is called misplacement (2).
One woman told me that she wanted a promotion. She felt an emptiness towards her current job position and a complete lack of motivation. “Well, imagine yourself doing the other, more responsible job for two years and tell me if this feeling would change.” It turned out that it was not the desire for a new job that drove her, but a lack of meaning and fulfillment. She started to do volunteering. Something that gave her more of a sense of purpose.
Another thing is to make sure that you choose a direction for your progress that you can actually influence. For instance, you can’t make somebody fall in love with you, nor can you make people accept everything about you instantly. You can, however, teach yourself to behave in a way that these things are more likely to happen.
4. Stay Reflective During the Process
Once you are on your journey towards progress, many things will start happening. You will engage in new adventures and step out of your comfort zone. That means many events and feelings that you have never experienced before will come into your life.
You will also encounter failures and challenges that you never expected. It’s important to always the take time to step back and look at those things. Ask yourself questions like: “what went well, what went wrong and how can I improve myself to take on these new challenges more effectively?”
You could even keep a day-to-day diary about this. Our memberships include an online private journal for you to keep such reflections. They also include unlimited access to all of our premium challenges series that are designed to take you to the edge of your comfort zone, and then lovingly nudge you to explore what's on the other side! Choose one of our intention-based challenge series that best suits you and get started today!
5. Accept the Possible Setbacks
There is a cycle of change that is often used in the context of social work and coaching to describe the process of a person progressing (3). Setbacks or relapse is a part of the cycle and it occurs for almost everybody who is in the process of moving forward.
This is not disastrous for your progress in itself. Although it might be in case if you decide to put too much weight on it. You shouldn’t allow it to make you lose faith in yourself or give up. Just accept it, take your time to regenerate and “go back to rocking it” when you are ready again.
From Matt Prindle's Vlog, the co-founder of Intention Inspired
6. Celebrate Your Successes
It is very important that when you are moving forward, you are aware of all that you are achieving. This makes your confidence grow and gives you exactly the fuel you need to continue. The best way to focus your mind on these accomplishments is by rewarding yourself with presents. Presents that represent something you always enjoyed.
Listen to a song that always had a special meaning to you. Cook a meal that you always enjoyed and share it with a friend. In short, things that bring you joy but that you also have a very deep personal connection with. These little gifts you give to yourself will become your anchors (4). Choose rewards that could remind you of your state of victory and that trigger that state whenever you reconnect with these anchors.
This way you can just listen to your favorite song when you feel a bit down, and you will instantly be reminded of the great feelings you had before. It will refresh you and give you new strength.
7. Take Time to Enjoy the Amazing Result of Your Journey
You are finally there. You made it!
While it may be tempting to immediately jump to another goal or to involve yourself in another project, the best way to honor yourself after a job well done it to slow down and enjoy your success. Don’t forget to appreciate your new and improved life situation and all that it has to offer.
You have worked hard enough for it. Think of all the amazing moments you had during your journey. How you had new experiences, met new people, fell down and climbed back up.
You are awesome, don’t you forget that!
(Read this next: 6 Ways of Overcoming Obstacles Using Optimism)