October is all about Progress.
This week, learn why looking back is essential to moving forward.
More often than not, we measure our successes based on where we are along our own spectrum of progress.
That’s not to say this metric is a bad one, but it can convolute our actual progress. Because rather than focus on our gains along this spectrum, we have a natural human tendency to only realize the gaps, or how far we have left to go.
October is when most of us achieve our best health in a calendar year, according to research.
For some, they haven’t reached that most perfect point on their success spectrum. But rather than look down that black hole of what has yet to be accomplished, what if we looked back at just how far we’ve come in these last 10 months?
It is not always easy to maintain what we deem healthy. And yet, it’s the consistency of these healthy habits that matters most in us reaching that end result that we’ve been looking and moving towards.
Confucius, the 6th century BCE Chinese philosopher, recognizes consistency in one of his many texts:
"It is like building a mound: If I stop before carrying a single basket of earth, it is my stopping.
"It is like leveling the ground: If I continue even after dumping only one basket, it is my continuation."
The process of personal progress requires continual effort. It doesn’t matter how long it takes; what matters is that you just keep going. But, as you might imagine, this continued building of mounds or—in our modern day case—choosing the healthier habit, day in and day out, can become quite repetitive.
So how do you maintain your consistency? How do you focus on the present moment rather than the end result?
The secret lies in progress metrics.
Let Gains Guide
Typically, we measure success by comparing our current status to our ideal status; we are quick to assess how much further we have to go rather than how far we’ve already come.
When we judge our goals from this perspective, we notice huge gaps in where we are and where we want to be. We quickly spiral into feelings of hopelessness and demotivation. All we can see is that long road ahead, rather than the massive gains that are behind.
But looking at our progress from this perspective means looking at that huge gap: the distance between where you stand and where your goal lies. As you focus on that gap, you’ll tend to notice how far you are from your goal and, likely, feel defeated.
Instead, try looking at your progress from a different angle.
Rather than focus on the gap—that giant, insurmountable chasm between you and your final goal—set your sights on your gains, those accomplishments you’ve already made, the steps you’ve already taken.
With two months left to go in the year, plus the many festivities that lie ahead, October is the perfect time to evaluate your progress by looking back at how far you’ve come.
Moving forward on your health journey depends on this notion of measuring your past achievements.
By looking at yesterday, last week, or the last 3 months, you can gauge your gains from your starting point to where you are today. You can see the barriers you’ve come up against and the milestones you’ve earned.
This distance that you’re looking at when you’re looking back is your gain; it’s your acknowledgement of how far you’ve come and a proper assessment of your improvement.
As we approach the fall months and another changing of the seasons, take a look back at your gains this year. Forego the natural tendency to focus on the gaps and, instead, reward yourself by looking back at all your accomplishments.