What progress really looks like

Often when I’ve been out running this year (which I’ve done quite a bit of as I’ll go on to explain) about progress and how progress looks different to different people, and how often, progress can be so small, you don’t even realise it’s happened until you look back.

This the that makes me think of progress most often when I’m running is when I pass this electricity box. It’s exactly a mile from my house, and on 1st January 2021, I ran here and back as I was starting my own personal challenge of running 500 miles in a year. And at the time, that mile marker was the farthest I could run without stopping.

I gradually built up my distance, and when I say gradually, I mean almost literally running to the next lamp post or bench or whatever marker I felt I could manage. Come September I was back up to running 5 miles again fairly regularly. And every time I ran past that electrical box on the way back from a completely 5 miles, I would give myself a little mental pat on the back, remembering what a struggle it was to run there and back on 1st January.


I think about progress at work sometimes as well and how almost every time I change jobs I have that real uncomfortable few months where I feel completely overwhelmed, out of my depth and worrying that I’ve made the right decision. And that’s a lot to do with comfort zones, which I’m not going to go into here. But when I think about my first month in my current job, and how unsure I was about every single thing I did, and then how I feel on a whole these days 15 months later, I’m way more settled and confident in my abilities. But that didn’t happen over night, and some of the progress I’ve made has been off the back of some painful lessons.

When I think about a progress analogy in the simplest term, I also think about my hair. If you took a picture of my hair every day for a month, on day two my hair would look no longer than day one, day three would look no longer to day two and so on and so on. But day 30 would probably look quite different to day one. You’ve just got to give it time sometime I think is the point I’m trying to make.

I’ve written this year about consistency and the road back up to 5 miles wasn’t a consistent one, and that’s the thing about progress. It’s not a linear process. Its two steps forward one step back, or sometimes even two steps forward, three steps back. But as long as you’re moving forward over all, then I think that’ the best you can ask for sometimes.

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