Have you ever worked toward a goal or fought through an obstacle, but when you looked for the results, you didn’t really see any progress? Does that mean it’s not there?

The answer to that question is N-O. Just because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. We may be so close to the goal or situation that it’s hard for us to see the progress we’ve already made. What does progress look like?

My kids are a perfect example of this. I’m around them just about all day every day, so I don’t notice all the physical growth changes. But if a friend comes over that I haven’t seen in a long time, she may tell me that they are growing like weeds! To me there wasn’t much growth. I didn’t see it, but just because I didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Many of you know that I broke my ankle this past winter, and it was and still is a long recovery process. I had to have surgery and was off my foot completely for almost three months, and I couldn’t drive because it was my right foot. When I finally was able to get rid of the crutches, I still was walking in a boot or brace for another month and a half. It was a traumatic experience, and I’m not going to lie, it was hard — it still is.

Related: Taken Off Course

I’m now about six months post surgery.

I’m an avid runner (that’s how I broke my ankle in the first place; I slipped on black ice), and the surgeon told me it would be a good six months before I could start running again. Little did I know that what he meant was that I’d have to start over and learn to run again.

In June I began power walking to get back after it. I was starting to feel good again, and my foot seemed ready to begin building all that muscle that I had lost. When I was power walking 2 miles a day, I didn’t feel like I was making ANY progress. I was walking 15-minute miles, whereas I can run twice as fast! How did that look like progress? It sure didn’t feel like it.

But guess what? It still was progress! It didn’t matter how I felt. If we relied on our feelings, we’d be so out of sorts and never get anything done. Our feelings sway moment by moment and can’t be trusted. 

Most of what we do doesn’t create instantaneous results. It’s a slow progression that’s hardly noticeable. Don’t get down on yourself when it seems like you’re not getting anywhere. You may not see the progress immediately, but you need to trust the process. Trust that it’s working on you.

The fact is, power walking 2 miles a day is progress for me. So what about where I was at physically before my injury? I went from not able to walk for almost three months to being able to power walk 2 miles at a time. If that’s not progress, then I don’t know what is.

Here’s something else that I didn’t take into consideration:

Not only did my leg atrophy, but so did my entire foot. There are more than 100 muscles in our feet alone!! When I began walking again, I had to strengthen each of these muscles to be ready to work hard.

  • I couldn’t even stand on my tip toes. It took months of therapy to be able to do that! But guess what? Now I can stand on my tip toes!
  • Balancing for more than 10 seconds on my right foot was impossible when I began the recovery process, and now I can balance more than a minute!
  • My endurance was lacking when I started power walking, but now I’m not breathing as hard in my workouts. All these tiny details are progress to the greater goal of being able to run again!

So how do we measure the progress?

When you’re going through obstacles alongside your growth journey, make sure to keep a journal. Write down the things that are going on. It doesn’t have to be done every day, but when things happen, or you make some clicks, or when you come across another obstacle, write those things down. When you overcome an obstacle, note the struggle and how you found victory in it. 

Progress, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.” – Scottish author Samuel Smiles

I promise you, you’re not going to remember all the details and feelings of your journey when you look back on it if you haven’t kept record of it. It’s important to know where we came from and how we got to where we are now. That way we can help others overcome similar obstacles in their lives and bring them along with us. 

I equate it to having a baby.

Moms know exactly what I’m talking about. We think there’s no way we’re going to forget the details of the birth — how it went, how long it was, any issues that arose, the stats of the baby (height/weight), and the joys of bringing a baby into the world. How in the world could we forget an experience like that? But guess what? We do! I don’t remember my kids’ actual birth heights, weights, time of birth, and all those details. I have to look back on what I wrote down about the birth, and I’m glad I did write down those precious memories so we could cherish them. 

Similarly, I created an “Injured Runners Journal” and logged the progress throughout my injury.

It was therapeutic, but I wanted to learn from this experience as well, which is the main reason why I wrote it all down. When you track your journey in writing, you can look back on it and actually see the progress no matter how large or small it is. Now looking back at the last six months, I see I made leaps of progress.

I’m now able to do some walk/run intervals, but in the natural it doesn’t seem like I’ve come a long way. Running 1 minute and walking 4 for about 30 minutes total, or six rounds, doesn’t sound like a lot. Six minutes of running total. But that’s progress. We need to put into perspective where we started from. I couldn’t put any pressure on my foot for months, and now I’m able to begin learning how to run again. That’s progress.

FINAL STRETCH

Progress is not overnight. It is not always noticeable immediately. Little by little, in every way, we choose to be better. That’s true progress.

Do you have a good analogy where you may not see the results or progression but an outsider looking in would? I’d love to hear it! Progress is seen in our consistency over time, not overnight. 

Related: Find Joy in the Journey

And, remember, you are a winner. Just run YOUR race!!

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