The power of measuring progress:: best tool in the box

I have heard this mentioned to me a lot in the past year – the idea of measuring progress.  After we adopted our daughter at the age of 4, the advice about how to feel good about what I was doing as a mother was two-fold:  don’t take things personally and track your successes, measure your progress.

“What you need to do”, my friend said, “is chart your progress, actually measure it.”  And I realized, much later that it isn’t just fabulous advice for the life-changing task of parenting.  Measuring progress is probably one of the most important tools to utilize whenever life offers you a challenge – like adopting a healthier lifestyle routine or committing to getting organized.

Measuring progress allows you to see how far you have climbed.

And that is ultra important. The trick is to not look up at how much more you have to climb – otherwise, you skip through being present, with the mess, and with your success in dealing with the mess.

Measuring means to remind yourself of the obstacles you have overcome and moved beyond.  To remind yourself of what has improved, what feels better – even if it is a tiny bit of progress. Measuring means reminding yourself of the vision you have set – the “why” you are doing this in the first place – and being proud of every little and big thing you’ve accomplished on the long, tough road thus far.

Measuring allows you to pat yourself on the back for the work you have done, and realize you are better than good enough. It’s an encouraging way to tell you that being on the road to wellness is much better than sitting on the sidelines.

And you deserve at least that bit of encouragement.

These tips helped me in how I measured – and still track – my progress.

  1. Keep a journal.  People cringe at this as if it is a homework assignment the teacher will collect and grade you on.  This is for you!  Write down that you walked an extra 10 minutes today, or that you woke feeling refreshed for the first time in 2 weeks because you got to bed early. Note that you got a compliment or that you didn’t yell – not once – that day.  Document how you felt after doing a 10-minute purge of the basement. These reminders that you are moving forward and making progress are set in stone – so to speak.  You can’t undo them which is good news.  And even better, you can refer back to them in times of doubt to get a nice little boost of confidence that you can do this – whatever this is.
  2. Share your goals with a trusted source. This keeps you honest.  And it provides a built-in cheering section and a support system to remind you, when an obstacle creeps up, just how far you have come so you can continue to plug away.  People with whom you can share your triumphs and tragedies are treasures.
  3. Take photos. I am a big fan of before and after pictures.  Trying to lose weight? Take a photo before you do your Whole 30 challenge. And take one after.  Purging the closet?  It might take longer than a day.  You must take a before picture as it will remind you how much progress you have made.  Photos are a great way to document where you were and were you are now.

Times will always get “tough”.  There will always be obstacles and more to do.  I have learned that it truly is in the strife and the difficulty that we find our strengths.  When you are in it, it’s hard to feel how strong you are.

It is hard to believe you are moving forward at all.

While you are in “it” – track it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly. But especially the good.

Every little and big amount of progress matters.

And finding a way to remind yourself of it is a great way to help you continue the work.

What are your favorite tools for measuring, and tracking your progress? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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