Are You Blind to Your Own Progress?

Are you measuring your progress? If you have set any goals for yourself then you absolutely should be. It’s really the only way to be truly sure you are making any progress and not just spinning your wheels uselessly. That said, despite having some concrete goals set in place and ways to monitor yourself along the way it can be easy to lose sight of the progress you’ve already made. Sometimes we obsess so much about the end result, and the gap to achieving it, that we can be blind to our own progress. This can lead to negative thoughts that may actually hinder your future success.

I am guilty of it quite often. As a fitness professional and an individual there are so many areas that I would like to improve upon. I would like to be stronger AND leaner. I’d like to have a better handle on assessments and corrective exercises for clients. I want a better understanding of writing programs. I wish I could more eloquently convey my thoughts and ideas to my audience.

These are all things I need to work on, and while it’s frustrating not to be where I want to be the truth is I am much better at all of those things than I was at some time in the not so distant past. The frustration and longing for the goal can at times be blinding, especially when you’ve set some pretty audacious goals. It’s can be fairly easy to get so obsessed with it that you can fail to notice the actual progress you are making.

There are people in the industry that I really look up and when I see what they are doing on a daily basis it can be disheartening (Sometimes I want to just delete my instagram account).  You’ve probably been there too when it comes to your fitness goals.  We inundated with super fit celebrities and near God-like athletes that both fill us with awe and leave us with longing.  Heck there’s probably that one guy at your Crossfit classes that easily doubles most of your lifts or can row circles around you. I’m not saying this to take anything away from you, but that is just the simple truth.

Another way to put simple truth is that we are all a work in progress. Super Crossfit Dude, yeah, he had to learn how to properly snatch at one point in his life too and probably tripped multiple times learning double unders.  We are all located at some point along a continuum, between where we once were, where we are now, and where we want to be. As tempting as it is, comparing where you are with where anyone else is can do more harm than good. Looking at someone else’s continuum immediately takes your progress and results out of context.  Yes, it’s good to have positive role models to look up to, but if we’re not careful that comparison can only fuel negative emotions and make us blind to the truly great things we have accomplished.

This is the old “compare and despair” syndrome. Everyone else seems to be doing such impressive feats and accomplishing some really cool goals. It can make what you are working on seem small in comparison. I am still relatively new to strength training.  Unless you count the lifting I did back in high school, I have only been seriously training for two years. There is still so much that I want to accomplish in my training. Skills and feats of strength that I see my idols do with ease on a regular basis. My first thought is usually, “Oh man, I wish I could do that right now.” If I’m not careful, fixation on that gap leads to that despair.

It takes several calculated interventions to keep focused, positive, and appreciative of the journey we are on.

Instead of despair, the better thought may usually be, “did I take action today to get me closer to that goal?” If the answer is yes, then chalk one up in the positive win column. It doesn’t matter what that other person is doing. It doesn’t matter how far I have to go. I may not actually be closer to hitting my first muscle up, but at least I worked on dips and pullups today. Staying in the present and focusing on the smaller daily goal, rather than the big picture goal, can help keep things in a positive perspective. It helps to reflect on the minor, but important, small steps you are taking. It’s reframing the perception of progress to take the blinders off and keep the positive thoughts outnumbering the negative.

Another useful tip is taking the time to reflect on your journey. We are always striving for progression and improvement over time, but all too often we do not take the time to really reflect on where we came from. The best tip I’ve come up with is to keep training logs and every once in awhile review them to truly evaluate your progress. I am currently repeating a training program I completed about two years ago and it has been refreshing to take a look at the old the training logs. While I feel inadequate strength wise from time to time I feel much better to see how far I’ve come in the last two years. Complexes with 35 pound kettlebells are now done with 53s. Pullups are now weighted pullups.

There has been progress and gains in the last few years, and it helps to remember that. By referencing your past progress in regards to a time frame, it can be much easier to see yourself making additional gains in the future. You may not have noticed the changes day to day, but it can be eye opening to see just how far you’ve come. Suddenly current goals don’t seem so far away, and feel much more attainable. “Ugh, I have so far to go!” gets replaced with, “Yeah, I can do that!”

The last trick I employ for removing the blinders and regaining a positive outlook is to try a new activity. This can be anything, a new lift, skill practice, or leisure activity. By doing something new and different you experience immediate success, not matter how bad you may be at it. You still accomplished something that you didn’t yesterday, and that immediate sense of accomplishment may be all you need to remember that you truly are capable of anything. If you can do that (new thing), you can do anything you put your mind to. Instead of despair and longing you are filled with uplifting determination. Watch out goals, here you come.

Sometimes motivation, drive, and positivity can become scarce when we we driving toward a goal. We know that type of mindset doesn’t serve us, yet we all struggle with it. Often times removing the blinders to our own progress is just what we need to realize just how much we are capable of. Next time you feel the despair and negativity creeping in give one of these tips a shot. You may be surprised how quickly things turn around for you!

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