Progress is not just steady forward movement.
It’s also the willingness to slow down, take stock, ground, uproot, shift, change, and move forward in a way that’s actually in alignment with who we really are.
A thousand steps forward mean nothing if they’re all in the wrong direction.
Here are 8 ways to measure how far you’re coming that have nothing to do with the length of your “to do” list.
1. Your pace.
What if your life wasn’t about how quickly you could rush from one milestone to the next, but how much time you took arriving to each, how much soul you planted in the garden of your life?
Pace is a big indicator of progress, because it often means we’re ready to start prioritizing quality over quantity. We are no longer willing to accept a dozen acquaintances, we’d prefer one or two best friends. We are no longer willing to measure our success by output, but input. We are no longer willing to move through life holding our breath, we are ready to take a deep, long exhale, and be here now.
2. Your self-awareness.
If you’re like most people, you probably look back on who you were even mere months ago and want to cringe. This is normal. This is healthy, even.
It’s ultimately a sign of growth. People who stagnate don’t have those moments where they can recognize their errors and have enough self-awareness to change them in the future. Instead of wallowing in shame, you can emerge into forgiveness, and commit to becoming softer, kinder, and more conscious as you go forward.
3. Your priorities.
Your priorities are starting to realign and new things are emerging at the top.
Instead of trying to keep up with every trend, you’re more interested in finding your own style. Instead of trying to prove how cool you are, you’re more interested in how at peace you feel. You are willing to trade wild weekends for soul-searching. You are ready to exchange what looks nice on the surface for what feels like home just beneath.
4. Your vision for the future.
Have your dreams changed? Good, that means you’re changing.
It’s often heartbreaking to have to let go of old ideas and plans we had, especially when we were really excited for them or attached to their outcomes. However, being willing to amend our vision for the future is integral to becoming more deeply fulfilled, because we are otherwise destined to keep chasing a life that we built for a version of ourselves that no longer exists.
5. Your willingness to release old emotions.
Sometimes, what appears on the surface as days of heartache, tears and exhaustion is actually a rebalancing that’s happening within us.
Despite what we want to believe, it is healthy, normal and safe for us to experience the entire range of our feelings — even, and maybe especially, the ones we buried away. Those all have to be dealt with, because when we feel them, we validate them, and when we validate them, we’re able to move on.
It’s what we try to resist and deny that perpetuates.
Instead of measuring your progress just by how many positive days you’ve had, consider that another piece may be how much you’re willing to feel and process, how safe you feel to release what you’ve been bottling up.
It takes more courage than you can ever imagine.
6. Your willingness to let go of the past.
In the same vein, celebrate everything you’ve been willing to release. Old mindsets, friend groups, clothing, belongings. Old plans, visions, dreams, commitments.
If you’re having trouble mentally and emotionally letting go of everything you’ve been carrying, make releasing a ceremonial experience. Write down what you’re letting go of on a piece of paper and burn it. Donate the old clothes purchased for an old self. Let go of the reminders of the old relationships, the things that are tethering you to the past.
7. Your refusal to be everything to everyone.
Another big sign of progress is that you’re willing to let go of trying to appease literally everyone you can imagine.
You are no longer trying to be everything.
You are not overwhelming your days by trying to cook perfectly, keep a pristine home, wear a cute outfit, work like a boss, have healthy relationships, and smile throughout it all.
No, no, no.
You do not need to be everything. Pick one thing, maybe two, and care about those. Let go of the rest. You do not need to be everything to everyone, you simply have to try to be enough for yourself, and that often means letting go of all of the unhealthy expectations of perfection.
There’s something better than perfection, and it’s authenticity.
8. Your willingness to reconnect to your inner truths.
When you’re lost in life, it’s often because you’re disconnected from the truth of who you are and how you want to live.
We all have a collection of truths about what we are passionate about, where we’d want to live, what kind of relationships we want, and so on. We can all compromise on a few things, but when we start to severely compromise on all of them, we find ourselves in a state of total emotional chaos, even though everything seems just fine on the surface.
The truth is that the biggest measure of your growth isn’t how much you’re doing, but whether or not you’re being real about whether or not you actually want to be doing it. Even if you can’t make every single change you desire right here and now, simply being willing to be conscious of what’s in misalignment is a huge step to getting your life back on track.