But you know what? You — yes, YOU — have made a lot of progress.
Sure, progress can feel slow and painstaking and sometimes non-existent, but it is nonetheless progress.You may have a bad day (or days) and sometimes you may feel your same-ol’-same-ol’ is a whole lot of backwards motion but I am fairly certain your general direction is, in fact, forward. And forward direction = action, which = progress.
Lest you think this is all philosophical here, let me give you some real-life examples from my real life…consider this my Progress Chart, in no particular order:
I don’t always have to get the last word anymore: I practice leaving an unproductive or needlessly confrontational conversation alone, even if it means the other person gets the last word and even if that last word was meant to offend, hurt and/or attack me.
I practice having compassion for people I don’t like one bit: Now, I didn’t say that I feel compassion for someone like this, or that I have any positive thoughts toward this kind of person at all. For now, and for me, progress means that I at least consider it and that I allow even a momentary awareness of the compassion-inducing things that other person brings to this world. For instance, I think about hurt they must feel or anger they must bury or fear they must be inundated with, all or any of which would cause them to act outwardly in a way that isn’t likeable to others.
I try to abandon my efforts to control that which I cannot control: Which is just about everything outside of my own self, and limited even there.
I remind myself that baby steps are massive steps: The proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I have begun to appreciate and celebrate that single step. The single step could be spending an hour doing anything from writing a chapter of a memoir to cleaning out a long-crowded closet. Neither baby step involves finishing, but both represent celebration-worthy progress. Being able to measure progress in a more manageable way begets more celebration-worthy progress. It’s that simple.
Speaking of simple, it’s all pretty simple: I try to keep this in my mind and heart, even in the most seemingly complicated of moments. Everything can be simplified, right down to its most basic and manageable level. (That complicated thing you are thinking of right now is also, at its core, simple.)
I’ve sometimes stopped worrying how it will all turn out: I can care how something will turn out without obsessing over how it will turn out. Focusing on the baby steps (see above) is freeing. Detaching from how everything has to be or should be brings about unexpected magic that I’d miss if I were uber-focused elsewhere.
I love myself a lot more: This is the toughest one for me, and for many of us. Especially when we are in environments that run counter to this, that are traumatic or abusive, that seem to turn us against our own selves. First, we need to make peace with a past that will never, ever change. We also need to view our lives as a breathing entity that is healing and that can be healed. Reminding myself of how awesome I am feels bizarre. But I try to do it, even (and especially) when external circumstances such as something someone else does or says seem to contradict that.
It’s a start. It’s progress. I’d say it’s more than that first single step, less than the thousand.
What about YOU: What progress have YOU made?