What is Progress?

Sometimes, I wonder what I’m obsessing about.

People find out that I’m into personal improvement and kind of scoff, or give a little grin of disdain. I listen to hours upon hours of podcasts and books, and can get lost reading through blogs. My browser is constantly full with tabs (which is ironic, given that many of the tabs are about decluttering).

I follow a whacky diet. I have to tell people I don’t eat breakfast, or I’m not eating meat today. I skip social occasions to exercise.

And then, someone tells you how much you’ve changed.

It all suddenly becomes worth it. Did you know you’d changed that much? Everything you’ve been working for pays off.

Someone you haven’t seen in a year goes on and on about your weight loss.

Maybe the suit you bought last year fits loosely. Did you have any idea?

Self confidence gurus teach that you should be happy with yourself. And you should be. But nothing beats a compliment out of left field. To me, that’s the difference between keeping on the straight and narrow and giving up.

I’ve read about the benefits of doing annual checkups. James Clear does a couple – an annual Integrity Check and an annual Progress Review – and it’s embarrassing that I haven’t done one for myself. It would be highly informative how much my squat has increased.

I probably shouldn’t publish my salary on here.

But even without those objective measures, does a coworker ever stop you in the hall and tell you they are impressed with your personal growth?

You’ve improved. That 1% a day has added up. Your debts have dwindled away, your house is 20% cleaner, you make your bed without thinking about it. Your hard work to make friends has payed off when you get a text from someone to hang out.

Last week, my boss told me he had really noticed a change in my outlook. I hadn’t noticed a change in my attitude – but I’d been working on it.

That’s what progress looks like to me. Keep at it.

(And while you’re at it, tell someone else that you’ve noticed they’ve improved for the better. Pass it on.)


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