How well did I do last year?
Being an entrepreneur, I’m sure this question has crossed your mind lately. At the start of a new year like this, a lot of progress related questions like these goes through our mind;
How well did I do last year?
Did I make any significant progress?
Was year 2010 any better than the previous year?
You’re not alone on this! Every one of us asks these sorts of questions at the start of every New Year. I guess it’s part of what makes us human. Ingrained in our DNA as humans lies a key factor that significantly separates us from all other mammals placed on earth. That factor is self awareness.
We have what it takes to conduct a personal assessment of ourselves. While we all share this key trait as humans, not everyone knows how to effectively conduct this exercise of self evaluation. Not many can muster the personal discipline and patience required to go through such a mentally demanding task. This is when an unusual article like this becomes very handy.
Year 2010 in Review
The year 2010 has gone taking with it 8760 hours, 365 days, 52 weeks and twelve months. In case you haven’t also noticed, today is the 13th day of the New Year, which means another 13 days, gone! One of the reasons why accounting has become a good measure of a business’s performance is because numbers don’t lie; they say it as it really is. Take a second look at those numbers again, but this time, try to attach a particular event, activity, achievement or experience to each number. Here is what I mean; what did you do, say, or accomplish in every hour of the 8760 hours you used up in year 2010?
Where did you go, what did you do, say or achieve daily out of the 365 days you lived in year 2010? I know these are very tough questions, which are often left unasked by most of us. But here’s the truth; whether asked or unasked we can’t deny one fact: 2010 came and now it’s gone, but you are still here!
Still alive, left behind to fill up the missing pieces of your life. You are still here, left behind to balance up the books, to reconcile your account with life. You are still here, left behind to match up your days with your deeds; to measure the present against the past and weigh your performance and progress in relation to the future.
This is the reality of life, whether we are prepared for it or not, life will always go on irrespective of our involvement or not. Life will happen, most times faster than we ever anticipated. The problem is not whether another year of one’s life is going or gone, but rather, the fact that one cannot possibly lay hold of the progress made during the year or that the progress made is not commensurate with the days gone by. It seems as though the days in the year has speedily gone by but the deeds of the year are hardly noticeable. So one wonders,
“how come we know precisely the number of days gone by, the exact hours spent, but can’t seem to measure the extent we have come or gone?”
The answer is not far fetched and that is the essence of this article to state authoritatively that:
Progress does not come as a result of merely ‘doing something’; it comes as a result of ‘doing only the right thing’.
Doing ‘something’ is simply being occupied or engaged. Doing ‘something’ is what it means to be ‘busy’. For the most part, a lot of people would have been ‘busy’ all through the year 2010. Now don’t get me wrong, doing ‘something’ is good but doing the ‘right thing’ is best.
Doing the ‘right thing’ is what it means to make progress. Real progress is not found in being ‘busy’ (doing something); real progress is found in being ‘effective’ (doing the right thing). This is important because quite a number of people are just about ‘anything’ and on the long run they expect to accomplish the ‘right thing’.
This article will distinctively clarify the difference between
- ‘motion’ and ‘progress’;
- ‘volume’ and ‘values’;
- ‘quantity’ and ‘quality’;
- ‘activity’ and ‘productivity’;
- ‘faithfulness’ and ‘fruitfulness’;
- ‘execution’ and ‘contribution’;
- ‘engagement’ and ‘accomplishment’.
For we cannot accurately measure progress without its corresponding elements; progress is not measured in a vacuum. It is measured against something which could either be a goal, an end, a vision, a purpose, a destination etc. As Abraham Lincoln rightly said, “It’s not the ‘days’ (quantity) in the years, but the ‘life’ (quality) in the days that matter.”
In other words, “it’s not the ‘number’ (length) of days gone nor the ‘number’ (amount) of things done that accounts for our progress in life, but rather, the significance (essence) of the things done in relation to our life’s ultimate destination, purpose or vision”.
Firstly, the aim of this article is to clarify once and for all that ‘doing’ is not necessarily the same as ‘achieving’. The problem of measuring our progress comes when we begin to confuse progress with some other things, such as confusing progress as motion or regarding activity as progress. The two are not the same and will never be the same. They are entirely two different concepts.
So I will be making the distinction between progress and some of its common misconceptions. Secondly, the aim of this article is to suggest the principles against which our progress in life or within a given period can be measured. This is going to be a series, so that you wouldn’t miss out on anyone of the articles in this series, click here to subscribe to receive them via email or RSS feed.
Having said that, let’s begin!
Some Misconceptions about Progress
What in your own opinion is progress? Do you often find yourself caught up in the continuous trap of activity without productivity? Do you often get anxious and worried with each passing day or hour wondering how far behind you are in life? We all go through this phase in life, when you wonder what exactly are you getting at in life? Most of the time, what we consider as progress or lack of progress is often misinterpreted. So, I am going to start by debunking every misconception you might have about progress.
Motion as Progress
A lot of people confuse motion as progress simply because they think progress is measured in relation to what we do or have done only. What we fail to understand is that motion is simply the act of moving. It is one of the elements of progress but not what progress completely means.
Meaning, progress truly does involve movement, but it doesn’t end at that, it entails much more than merely moving. Progress is concerned about the direction of your movement and not the mere act of simply moving. “Where exactly are you moving to?” Or put another way, “where is your movement leading you?” For progress to really happen, your motion [movement] must have a direction [focus].
Volume as Progress
Viewing progress in terms of the volume or number or amount of work done is incomplete and absolutely wrong. Progress is much more than the mere quantity of task or work completed. For God’s sake, you could be doing all the wrong work or performing the right task in a wrong way! That you have written 5000 words length of article doesn’t make the article valuable. It is not the quantity of the words written that counts as progress, but the quality of the information presented in the article.
Progress is more interested in the ‘value’ of work done rather than the ‘volume’ of work done. The value of the work done is what determines if you are making progress or not. For instance, “what good is in the number of trees cut if all you were supposed to do was count the trees?” or “what good is in the number of trees cut if all you did was cut the wrong trees?”
Activity as Progress
The mere fact that you are engaged in performing an activity doesn’t determine whether you are making progress or not. Activity is not necessarily productivity. Activity simply means what is being done. It looks at one part of progress and discards the other, because activity [what you are doing] could be either right or wrong.
Progress measures productivity which is the result or outcome of an activity and not just merely the activity. Who cares about what you are doing? What matters and counts as progress is the result of whatever it is you are doing. Progress examines the very nature or essence of what is being done (activity) in relation with what is achieved (productivity).
Faithfulness as Progress
Another popular misconception of progress is faithfulness, which means dedication or commitment to a particular thing. Being faithful in carrying out a particular task is not equivalent to progress. Progress is measured in terms of fruitfulness; which means the results of your being faithful.
The essence of your faithfulness [commitment] is in your fruitfulness [achievements]. Who cares how many years you’ve spent in the service to someone or to the service of something if your years of service produced no fruit [result]? All you’ve succeeded in doing is serving your time and being of service to no one, but yourself. If your faithfulness yields no result, it is as good as foolishness.
Execution as Progress
Execution is simply defined as the art of getting things done. It is closely related to activity except that while execution is an ‘art’ of getting things done; activity is the ‘actual’ thing being done. Execution is the completion of activities. It is the process of performing activities in order to get things done.
The problem with regarding execution as progress is that simply getting things done doesn’t account for one’s progress; you could as well be getting the wrong things done. Until your ‘execution’ becomes a ‘contribution’ towards something worthwhile; towards a preset goal, vision or objective, it cannot be regarded to as progress.
Engagement as Progress
Finally, quite a number of people think being ‘busy’ is the same as being progressive. Research has shown that not all of our ‘engagements’ turn out to be ‘accomplishments’. In fact, according to the 80/20 principle which states that 20% of our efforts yield 80% of our results, clearly shows that what we are engaged in most of the time yield little or no result.
So, ‘engagement’ cannot be viewed as progress because progress is measured in relation to results and not in terms of busyness or merely being preoccupied. Again, over to you; do you find yourself having some of these misconceptions about progress? Apart from these popular misconceptions discussed above, what other ones are you familiar with?
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