Are you the person you want to be ten years from now? Of course not!
Every day, we learn and grow. Just a little bit. It’s usually imperceptible at the time, which is why it feels like we’re not making any progress.
But if you turn around and look at the person you were ten years ago, you can see how far you’ve come. A lot has happened in the past decade. And you’re going to make a lot happen in the next decade.
In 1943, Abram Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation”. In it, he outlined the basic human needs that drive us: Survival, Safety, Society, Swagger, and Self-Actualization. The order of the needs may vary slightly from person to person, but they tend to appear in roughly that order.
That top need, self-actualization, pulls at us. It drives us to meet the lower needs and improve ourselves. It’s almost like a video game. We level up, see the cool new abilities we gain, and can’t wait to level up again to see what else we can do.
If we only ever pay attention to the road ahead of us, we become too focused on the gap between where we are and where we want to be. We can become blind to what we’ve gained so far in our journey. All we see is a finish line that’s always out of reach. We never feel any closer, like Achilles chasing a tortoise.
When we celebrate our progress as we go, some powerful things happen.
- We acknowledge that we’ve already achieved something. If we don’t celebrate the (sometimes considerable) work we’ve already put in, it will quickly start to feel like it’s all been for nothing. The celebration when you cross the finish line should be the biggest, but not the only.
- We make sure we like where this path is heading. In addition to celebrating, pause and reflect. You should be able to see early signs of what the final goal will be like. Don’t give up because the going gets tough, but feel free to modify or drop the goal if you determine it’s not someplace you want to go.
- We reconnect with our motivation. When the going does get tough, it helps to reconnect with your why.
- We feel good. You know why you write down things you already did just so you can check it off right away? Dopamine! It feels good! It’s our body’s natural way to reward progress.
- We notice that progress takes time. By celebrating the gains we’ve made, we face the time it’s taken for us to get this far. We’re not going to close the gap in a day (until the day we do). Be patient and keep going!
Break long goals into milestones where you can check on and celebrate your progress. When you set up the goal, be sure to include the reward at the end—how you’re going to celebrate the awesome change you just made to your life!
The past is in the past, but it’s not done influencing our lives. Today is the sum of the actions we’ve taken up to this point. Good or bad, we’ve laid the foundation for today and the launch pad for tomorrow.
Have a plan for the gap, but acknowledge and celebrate the gains you’ve made.