by Coach Rob Sinclair
If that title got your attention, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. You know the rollercoaster of emotions, beginning with setting a goal (Exciting!), then taking action (Exciting!), seeing some results (Exciting), then visible results come slower or become less visible (Not as fun…), then visible results sometimes stop despite your continued action (This sucks…), then frustration, a lack of drive, self-doubt and self-judgement set in (I must be the worst.) and you want to quit.
Our society’s fixation on the outcomes of success, and the sensationalization of big wins from quick fixes, are toxic ideas. They create expectations that are at best unrealistic and at worst impossible to fulfill, and in the process create this rollercoaster of emotions for the disciplined, committed people who are actually putting in the work to make things happen. It’s time we debunked some of these myths about what it looks like to be making progress. Because if you’re putting in the work, and you’re committed to the process, you’re succeeding... whether you know it or not.
Here are a few of the myths we've been sold, and the reality that matches up with them...
1 - Progress and Success are Linear - Things happen in step by step fashion, action equals results, with consistent feedback and quick returns for your every effort.
False. In fact, quite the opposite. If you’ve ever been a true beginner at something, you know what the real learning curve looks like. When you’re newer at something you see MASSIVE improvements and often very quickly, for your early efforts. And if you keep at it, that starts to slow. You may even put MORE effort in, and progress seems only to continue to slow, or even stop altogether. This first learning/development plateau is where so many people give up.
The truth is that most learning and development curves, and paths toward achieving a goal, come in multiple waves of these exponential-type curves. The people who have hung on and continued doing the work, even at this first plateau in the absence of visible gains, know very well that another NEW learning and development level soon opens up and you start to see the results of your efforts that were apparently “doing nothing for you”.
There will be waves of visible progress. Keep taking action.
2 - Progress and Success are Consistently Visible - You put in work, time, effort, resources, and you get to see progress.
Nope. More often than not, once we’re past that exciting beginners’ phase of quick and massive gains, we actually have to put in a ton of effort with no visible return. We invest the time, and do the work, despite having no gratification for it. Whether you’re building your deadlift, or building a business, or improving a relationship, it doesn’t matter. There will be times of huge effort with no “apparent” payoff. This stops most people again, because of our cultural obsession with instant gratification. But just because you can’t see the benefits yet, doesn’t mean all your hard work is for not. Those plateaus are clear signs that you need to invest MORE- that something is missing that you haven’t addressed. Those plateaus are themselves the feedback that you’re looking for, so that you can adjust your approach or address weaknesses that were ignored along the way (because you were seeing results!).
When you’re still taking action and not seeing big results, don’t stop. Keep at it. Examine, evaluate, tweak, adjust, but keep powering forward. Or even double down your efforts. But don’t let a lack of direct, visible returns slow your drive.
3 - Progress and Success are Predictable - We know the goal, and we have a plan, and we’re taking action. Success is inevitable.
Sorry, false again. As “SealFit’s” Mark Divine would put it, “Even the best plan doesn’t survive contact with the enemy.”
It’s great to have a plan of action, and we highly recommend it. But it’s just as important to be flexible and adaptable in your approach. Keep your goal in your sights, but if one method has brought you up against a brick wall, you may need to adjust your method. You need to be resourceful- having a coach, or a mentor who has achieved what you’re trying to achieve to verify your method or at least to help you decide on how you’re measuring progress. Sometimes you’re succeeding and don’t even realize it (as is often the case with weight loss when people give up because the number on the scale hasn’t changed but they’ve lost 10lbs of fat and put on 10 lbs of muscle).
Making progress towards a goal is often a messy process, especially for big, daring, and meaningful goals. The path is not simple, or easy. There are a lot of factors at play. But it’s the messiness of the process that makes them meaningful. The fact that there is no direct path, or that you’re putting in work without reward, are what bring you the real learning and growth. And isn’t that the point after all? It’s not about achieving the goal necessarily, but more importantly who you become in the process.
Be creative. Be resourceful. Be daring. Be courageous. Be disciplined. Be humble. Be relentless.
Most importantly, keep at it. And know that we're in your corner.