I am not sure why I am writing this little essay today, except that I feel compelled to do so. I see so many people beating themselves up over what they perceive as their lack of progress in life, on the job, in relationships, or toward a life goal.
For many years I counseled employees upon how to better succeed in their role in the company. Sometimes the coaching was about how to obtain that promotion they had been longing for and other times it was about how to better operate under a boss who was less than the ideal, or any of a myriad of other issues.
I kept a framed poster on my office wall, with a picture similar to the one shown above, that read: Success is not a destination, it is a journey. I still believe that.
When working with people who wanted some help in making progress toward a goal, some of the questions I would pose were:
Why do you want this? (If it was a desired promotion, and the answer was simply "more money" - that usually meant we had a lot of work to do.)
What skills do you have that make you feel well-suited to this next role? (If the response was, "I don't have any idea" - we had a lot of work , etc. .....).
What have you done (on your "own time and own dime") in the past year to prepare yourself for this opportunity? (If s/he looked at me and said, "huh?" - we had a lot .....)
What approaches have you already tried to improve the working relationship? (If the answer was "nothing" - that did not bode well.)
It was my genuine joy to see them succeed, sometimes beyond their initial hopes or dreams. However, there were times when they just could not seem to "make it happen"; they could not find a way to achieve their ideal employment situation.
When they would come back to me, in such circumstances, wondering why they had failed, I often pointed out (when it was true) that they had not failed; rather they had overlooked their own progress.
In life, just as in a career, the goal should be progress not perfection.
Progress is not defined by "how am I doing compared to so-and-so." Using this definition we will almost inevitably be disappointed and frustrated. And there will usually be more than a dollop of envy and self-pity thrown in, too.
I defined progress by "how am I doing compared to where I was this time last year?"
Questions we may legitimately ask ourselves are:
Am I more effective in my role this year?
Have I shown growth in the areas of compassion, patience or generosity?
Am I doing my best to be a good role model where I have the opportunity to do so?
Our progress along the time/life continuum will always be less than ideal. And sometimes our honest answer to each of the questions above may be a regretful "no, not really."
After all, we live in a fallen world. But our situation can almost always be improved upon, depending upon whether we are willing and able to invest the energy and discipline to make it so.
Whether it is our spending habits about which we are concerned, our weight management struggles, or our dreams for ways in which we would like to participate in the world, progress is the goal.
God never expected us to become "perfect" in this life, except as seen through the sacrifice of his son and the beauty of grace. Even the verse in Mathew that says "Be perfect as your Father is perfect" - in the original Greek actually uses the root word "mature" meaning a fully mature person spiritually, not an infallible human being.
# # # # #
Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else ... Galatians 6:4 (NIV)
# # # # #
Hope you are making good progress today and that you are not beating yourself up because you just aren't perfect. Guess what, no one alive today is! Until next time ... Marsha