There are seasons in life when it seems we are doing so much, but have little to show for it. I can speak from experience and say it can lead to frustration. How do we gauge progress? For example, when we engage in small talk with people, the word “busy” comes up more often than progress. It’s rare for someone to respond with, “making progress“ when we ask how they are doing. For some reason or another we have been conditioned to equate progress with busy or activity. But we should always keep a distinctive line between “busy” and “progress.”
Let’s use the treadmill as a second example. Winter time is usually tough for me because I enjoy running outdoors. Winter means I am relegated to the treadmill. I compare running on the treadmill to a hamster on a wheel; lots of activity with no movement. All that sweat when in reality I am still in the same spot. Now, I understand that I will see progress in terms of health, fitness, and weight management but it is hard to quantify that kind of progress while not seeing any movement. The very thought of progress creates a picture of motion. How do we quantify progress where physical movement is not the definitive factor? Consider these three essentials as a dashboard for a Quantifiable Evidence of Progress chart (Q.E.P);
- The Example: What do you want to be known for? What I mean is, what reputation do you want to have? What do people get when they get you? How do they describe you to others? The example you set becomes the expression of who you are and that expression over time becomes your reputation. Reputation is all about what you repeat in word and deed. We can call it your brand. It’s the description of who you are and what you stand for. It shows your authenticity and makes you recognizable. The true you will always drive you to become a better you. People trust and depend on you more when they know who you are through the example you set. We usually don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Your example distinguishes you from others but it doesn’t make you better than them. It makes your light shine in dark places. Your example grows from within and is converted into progress on the outside through consistent decision making and action taking.
- The Attention: What are you giving yourself to? What have you thrown yourself fully into? A friend of mine reminded me that being busy doesn’t always require attention but progress cannot be made without it. With so many options around us it is becoming increasingly difficult to stick to a task, assignment, vision, or goal and see it through no matter how long it takes. Attention is often drawn out by attraction. Then the question begs, what are you attracted to most? Impressing or helping people? Instant or deferred gratification? Doing only what is asked of you or giving your best even in the most mundane tasks? Earning a paycheck or living out your purpose? Achievements or accomplishments? Allow me to explain the last one. An achievement is externally motivated and may not bring internal satisfaction. On the other hand, an accomplishment is intrinsically motivated and provides sustainable fulfillment. You will always experience progress when you immerse your life into something that will outlive you.
- The Mission: What is your gift? I ask because it is unequivocally tied to your mission. Your mission is why you were placed on earth. The gift you possess is ultimately given to accomplish your mission. For example if a carpenter’s mission is to drive a nail into piece of wood, a hammer is the gift he uses to accomplish it. Everyone has been given a hammer. By reason of use, we become proficient in our gift, making our mission and subsequent progress a reality. We surrender our mission when we don’t discover our gifts or choose to bury them in the grave of fear, doubt, excuses, indifference, neglect, and assumptions. We also do more harm than good when we attempt to fulfill a mission outside of our gift. Consider that same carpenter choosing to use his hand instead of the hammer provided. For me, my mission is to use my gift of writing and speaking to build others up. By identifying my gift and using it, my mission is clear. You may ask why I didn’t mention passion. My answer is found in the example of a car. If a car has no destination and no driver, it requires no fuel. Discover your gift, realize your mission, and fuel it with passion.
A three tier challenge: If you are brave enough, I invite you to answer the three proceeding questions;
- What do you want to be known for?
- What has your full attention that will outlive you?
- What is your gift and mission?
To start, here are my answers;
- Dependable man, devoted husband and father, attentive listener, and constant encourager.
- Being a mentor.
- Gift: Speaking and writing. Mission: building others up.
Keep on Keeping On!