“The way to measure your progress is backward against where you started, not against your ideal.”
– DAN S U L L I V AN
I’m a notorious idealist. I tend to set my eyes on lofty goals and choose to see life through an idealistic lens. It wasn’t until recently that I realized this might actually be setting me back versus helping me attain those goals. So let’s break down progress and success on the two therories of ideals vs goals.
An ideal is one’s concept of perfection. It strictly exsists in one’s imagination and is unlikely to become reality. A goal is a product of one’s effort or ambition. An aim that is specific and measureable.
Here are some facts about ideals:
- They’re general and immeasurable
- They are constantly changing as you grow and change
- The measurement of yourself of where you currently are against your ideals creates unhappiness
- If you don’t have a way to measure your progress it’ll be hard to stick with it
- They’re distant and abstract
Here are some facts on happiness in relation to success:
- When you fail to appreciate where you are right now, you miss out on the benefits of mindfulness, and the journey to the desired “destination.”
- If you don’t take time to reflect on your progress, you miss all the small wins along the way therefore have less gratitude, confidence and joy. Without happiness, gratitude and confidence, you won’t want to imagine or create more goals.
- If you can’t measure your success, you can’t verify progress, which creates negative emotions versus confidence (a proven by product of success)
- The anticipation of success is almost always more powerful than the event itself
- Happiness is the secret to success
Therefore, it’s safe to say our ideals should not be our benchmark for growth and achievement. Rather, ideals should be a source to create specific and challenging long-term goals. When you take the time to reflect and measure your progress, you’ll enable yourself to set powerful goals with clarity as these goals will be created from a place of confidence, happiness, and gratitude. Most importantly, they will be tangible.
How do we do this? We transistion from ‘The Gap’ to ‘The Gain’ as Dan Sullivan calls it. This means focusing less on the ideals and more on the progess in relation to your starting point! The Gap, or ideal, can feel daunting and as if you’ve made zero progress due to their distant nature. Psychologically, you can also begin to dig yourself into a ditch as you tend to see all the time/energy you’ve used as a waste as you’re still not where you “need” to be.
Rather with ‘The Gain’ mindset, you measure your growth against your starting point. You’ll naturally begin to feel a sense of progress and forward movement as a result. This in return produces an emotion of satisfaction and happiness and ultimately motivates you to continue on your path to growth and achievement.
So let’s just sayfor a second that I would like to make a lofty goal for myself for the year of 2018: That is I want to attain a Sports Illustrated body! Now this isn’t very measurable nor is it specific for that matter. However if I set goals and live in the ‘The Gain’ mentality, I can then go in each month and set smaller, tangible goals such as attending Buti Yoga twice a week. This is a tangible goal I can measure at the month’s end. I can also compare myself from my staring point to map out my phyiscal progress.
I think this is a very important discussion to have in this day an age with all the media we choose to absorb online and out in the world. We all want to be our own boss, have a successful business and home life and of course make loads of money. On the downside we all at one time or another have fallen victim to unrealistic comparison, whether it’s photoshopped bodies we see all over Instagram or the perfection of someone’s feed. I think when it comes down to it, we all just want to be the best versions of ourselves and to that notion, I commend the.
I’m not saying ideals are completely terrible. There is defintiely a time and place for going general and daydreaming (primarily when you lack clarity or you’re building a long-term vision). More so what I’m saying is in order to stay on track, make sure you’re also taking the time to build the specific and attainable goals (with clarity). Know when to use them but also learn to keep up and adjust each accordingly as you change and grow.
Photography: Nat Sin of Style Cruise