To be honest with you, this is a sore subject with me. I often feel like a complete and utter failure. Retreats I organized failed to get enough participants, the memoir I worked on for 9 years never found a publisher, and many of the classes I’ve offered over the years never really thrived. I sometimes feel like I am treading water, and I wonder why I continue attempting to create anything at all. Most days it feels futile and frustrating to measure progress.
A few years ago, feeling a bit disillusioned by the the evolution of yoga in its popular context, I realized I needed to make a shift in my professional life. I felt confined by the parameters of teaching yoga in a classroom setting to an increasingly fitness oriented audience. The standardization of the Ashtanga yoga world left me unable to share the depth of the teachings I find so valuable in my own life. So I created a platform to share the most important threads of my journey, and to make these available to people in a variety of creative ways. It is a work in progress, the benefit of which I find challenging to measure.
What Is Progress?
Progress means forward movement, in relation to some fixed point. But is there such a thing as a fixed point? We move forward, but look back and realize our reference points have shifted. So what might look like progress from one point of view becomes completely irrelevant from another point of view. Where, exactly, do we think we are headed?
Progress is a mental construct, a qualitative judgement based on comparing the present moment to another moment in the past. According to a Buddhist point of view, the past does not exist. So how could progress be possible? And even if it is…
How Do You Measure Progress?
What is the system of measurement? Miles traveled? Numbers accumulated? Postures perfected? Items ticked off of a checklist?
If we are impatient, expecting things to manifest instantly, we might feel one step behind the game when they don’t. It’s exciting to have passion to work toward an outcome, but not that helpful to self flagellate when things don’t go as quickly or smoothly as you hoped. It’s important to stop and appreciate how far we have come, even if it’s not quite where we want to be.
Someone out there said once that the people who succeed are the ones who have failed the most. So maybe we measure progress by total number of failures?
The Importance Of Intention
More important than what we achieve is what our intentions are. You may or may not “get somewhere.” You may already be exactly where you are meant to be. In fact, I’m pretty sure you are.
Intention is the momentum created by aligning with the guidance of our hearts.When you align body, speech and mind with your inner truth, guidance magically appears to show you your path. I offer support for you to create that alignment, so you can hear the voice of your own wise inner guide.
Over the years, rather than seeing any of the traditional mile markers to indicate progress in my life, I’ve developed a conviction in my purpose. I have clarity and calm. I have developed tools to help deal with emotional upheaval and help others use these tools as well. Perhaps most importantly, I feel fine in my skin and I am told I help others to feel the same.
Can I measure these things? Absolutely not. Are they still worth it? Absolutely.
Progress is therefore a relative phenomenon, measurable only against something else. There is only the present moment. In other words, you are exactly where you are meant to be.
What Does Progress Mean To You?
Do you ever beat yourself up for a perceived lack of progress? Try this writing exercise to discover what progress means to you and how to make friends with where you are.