One of the reasons we don't achieve our goals is because we fail to measure our progress. We know we need to accomplish something. We think about it, we remind ourselves about it, we worry about it, and then nothing happens. Nothing happens because we put the task out of our minds. We forget about it. Until we realize that we haven't done anything, we haven't made any progress. And yet we keep telling ourselves that some day we will get around to it, we will actually do what we have long needed and wanted to do.
I taught college students for 45 years. Perhaps the most frequent question I was asked was "How can I improve my grade?" My most direct answer always was "Be sure you learn the material." Then I would make a few suggestions: Keep up with the reading assignments. Come to class regularly. Listen to the lectures. Take notes. Review over and over again until you can explain the material to some one else. Students would listen and agree with what I said. Sadly, however, only a fraction of them would take me seriously enough to actually follow through with my suggestions. The penalty for not following these suggestions was failure to achieve a higher grade or perhaps even to maintain their original grade. Those who made a real effort to dig in and learn the material could see tangible progress that could be measured not only in higher exam scores, but in a higher level of self confidence and interest in the course once they conquered their learning hurdles and began to understand the complex problems of economics.
When we are trying to lose weight, we need to weigh ourselves regularly and record our weight. If we are not losing weight, or perhaps if we are even gaining weight, we are not doing what we need to do to lose. We are not eating less nor are we eating more wisely. Progress comes when we take the necessary steps toward achieving our goal and then keep up our efforts consistently and without telling our self fibs such as "I know I am not eating too much and yet I can't lose weight." But once progress comes, a feeling of success permeates our minds, and we not only find that losing weight is easy but also that we are more eager to tackle other projects and make progress toward their completion.
Frustration often sets in when we do not see the progress we sought. Progress, however, can be achieved in small, though measurable, steps. We may need to reassess our goals and set a more realistic goal. Losing one pound a week will mean a loss of 52 pounds in a year. Studying a textbook can be done one or two pages at a time if we just make sure we understand what we have read before we go on to the third and fourth pages. Exercising and moving more to regain our health can be achieved if we start with only a few minutes a day, a few hundred steps. Then we measure our progress and keep going
Follow the Rule of One to begin making the progress that has escaped you up until today. One step. One nasty chore we have postponed. One page in a book or a manual that we need to learn. One entry in a journal to record your progress and your problems and successes in achieving your goal. Just one. Then the second, and the third, and the 100th, follow more easily and we lose the frustration we have felt for so long in postponing something we have known that we need to do but have never really started.
Task number 297: Measure your progress. Keep track of how you are doing. Write it down, don't just think about it. Make progress your watch word. How am I doing today? Have I accomplished anything toward my goal? What do I need to do differently? How can I succeed. Progress is a wonderful accomplishment. May you succeed in your efforts toward whatever goal you are seeking. Good luck and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.