Progress is a messy dance

I was thinking about progress yesterday, both on a personal level and in terms of Bird’s development. I was reflecting on how progress actually isn’t linear, we don’t tend to progress in neat straight lines, in fact sometimes progress feels like a simultaneous forward and backward step.

On a personal level I question how much progress towards contentment and fulfilment I am making. In my current life I worry I’m boring. I worry because I haven’t taken certain steps other 35 year old women have taken (child, marriage, house buying). I sometimes get cabin fever and feel like fleeing the country to new lands. And I still don’t feel a sense of peacefulness around my body image.

However, I am a whole lot further on in terms of fulfilment and contentment than I was ten years ago. That is for sure. Overall, I’ve been heading upward on the graph of fulfilment and contentment. I have been making progress. When I was 25 I had very little sense of self, I drowned out any if not all emotion with excessive wine and hideous hangovers, I didn’t dare ask for pay rises, I blamed all of my woes on my boss.

I can see, on reflection, that progress most certainly has been made, but it was, and still is, a definite forward and backward dance.

I made these handy little graphs to illustrate the point:

The same kind of progress happens in organisations too. We hope that projects or structural changes will unfold simply and evenly, but in truth curve balls, unexpected bends in the road, unforeseen complications inevitably happen.

The problem is when we resist or catastrophize when those dips occur. When we accept that they are an inevitable part of the process, they become easier to navigate.

An even better example of progress than my highly technical graphs, can be seen in this 2 minute Saturday Night Live skit

Once we accept that progress and change happen in a forward, backward, all over the place, random way it’s easier to accept the bumps on the way, they are a necessary part of the journey. I may still worry when I look in the mirror, and feel concerned that I might not be keeping up with peers but I know that overall I am still heading in the right direction.

Photo by Tucker Good on Unsplash


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