What EXACTLY is progress?
This is a continuation of a series I began last week. In the first article we looked at the various misconceptions about progress, in case you missed out on that, you can read it here.
To answer that question, let me begin by painting you a picture of two scenes which I believe you will be quite familiar with. This will greatly influence your understanding of the concept of progress.
Imagine that you stopped a cab driver and told him to take you to a particular place, let’s say that you were in location ‘A’ and you wanted to get to location ‘D’.
This journey on a typical day traveling at an average speed of 60km/hr would take you 2 hours to get to location ‘D’ from location ‘A’. Having discussed and agreed on the price, you got into the cab and the driver started driving at a speed of 120km/hr towards another destination which you could clearly recognize wasn’t the destination of your choice (location ‘D’).
Then, in less than the estimated time (2 hours), let’s say 30minutes, the cab driver suddenly parked at a junction labeled location ‘B’ and demanded for his money claiming that you’ve gotten to your destination.
As the passenger, what would your reaction be? Would you regard your journey as progressive or retrogressive? What’s your answer (progressive or retrogressive)? Why did you arrive at such conclusion?
Imagine that you stopped a cab driver and without saying a word told him to start driving because you were in a hurry to get away from your present location to somewhere entirely ‘different’ but not ‘specific’.
In a matter of seconds, the cab is in motion and the driver is moving as fast as he possibly can, let’s say 180km/hr in an attempt to get you away from your current location just as you’ve rightly instructed him. Suddenly, having driven at top speed for about 2 hours you tapped the driver and asked him where on earth he was taking you to?
As the cab driver, what would your reaction be? Would you regard your journey as progressive or retrogressive? What’s your answer (progressive or retrogressive)? Why did you arrive at such conclusion? I leave you to your imagination.
Interpretation of scene one
As the passenger, the journey can’t be regarded as progressive because the cab driver didn’t take you (the passenger) to your desired destination (location ‘D’) but rather took you to a different destination (location ‘B’). Despite the fact that the cab driver actually did move, at least from location ‘A’ to location ‘B’, the journey cannot be deemed progressive in the eyes of the passenger whose desired destination was location ‘D’.
Therefore, the journey was retrogressive as far as the passenger is concerned. The fault is from the cab driver who was more interested in how fast he traveled (motion) rather than focusing on where the passenger was headed (destination). If I were the passenger, I won’t pay the cab driver.
Interpretation of scene two
As the cab driver, the journey can be regarded as progressive because the aim of the passenger was achieved. Since the passenger’s instruction to the cab driver was to be taken away from the current location to any other location but the present one, the cab driver indeed made progress because he succeeded in getting the passenger to any different location other than the current one.
Therefore, the journey wasn’t retrogressive as far as the cab driver is concerned. The fault is actually from the passenger who failed to identify and communicate a definite location to the cab driver. The passenger was more concerned about quickly leaving the current location (motion), while the cab driver focused on transporting the passenger from the current location to any other one, but the present one (destination). If I were the cab driver, I will boldly request for my money!
Both scenarios painted above points to one singular truth; progress does not exist in vacuum. It is a combination of two or more factors or elements which are to be defined by the parties involved. These are certain elements or factors which must be considered individually and critically before one can accurately define and measure progress. Any attempt to measure your personal progress without first considering and clarifying these factors will produce an incomplete and biased result.
The meaning of Progress
The word ‘progress’ according to the 2010 edition of Microsoft Encarta software dictionary means one;
“positive development: development, usually of a gradual kind, toward achieving a goal or reaching a higher standard and two; motion toward something: movement forward or onward.”
Simply put; progress means a positive and gradual but steady advancement or movement towards a preconceived or predetermined object, goal or destination. Speed comes second, what you must know and define first, is your desired destination, goal or objective.
Progress is all about setting first an end; something specific that you are willing to go all out to accomplish. The manner, approach and speed at which you want to go about achieving that end comes second. Often times, the problem is not that time has gone or that years have gone by, but rather, a problem of lack of purpose, vision or goal.
The five PRINCIPLES of progress
Progress doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it involves certain elements or factors within which it must operate. These certain elements or factors are the principles governing the concept of progress as a whole, and they are five in number. Their absence makes progress an illusion.
In other words, it’s the presence of these elements within a given situation or condition that makes progress attainable or not. Therefore, before progress can be accurately determined or measured in any given situation or condition, it must contain the following factors or elements and operate within the following principles;
1) Motion: progress involves an action, movement or activity.
2) Direction: progress involves a movement, action or activity along a positive path.
3) Objectivity: progress involves a movement, action or activity along a positive path towards a specific end.
4) Significance: progress involves a movement, action or activity along a positive path towards a specific end that is meaningful.
5) Relativity: progress involves a movement, action or activity along a positive path towards a meaningful specific end comparable to the prevailing conditions, circumstances or realities of the unique individual or group in question.
Progress first and foremost involves motion, which is the act or process of moving. This movement could either be an action or the performance of an activity. In either case, the element of motion as one of the principles of progress denotes the existence of change that is brought about by a certain movement, action taken or an activity accomplished.
The principle of motion suggests to us that progress is not passive but active. Progress cannot be attained on a spot, it is not a stationary thing; it requires motion. Meaning progress involves making a movement, taking an action or performing an activity that will eventually change the current state of things.
Secondly, progress is not just about motion; a movement, action or activity, it must also be positive. That is; this movement, action or activity should have a direction; facing or pointing towards a particular thing, person or place. The element of direction as one of the principles of progress denotes one singular fact; that the whole concept of progress implies that you are going somewhere (direction).
So, your movement, action or activity should be positive; one that ought to take you closer to that place you have in mind. You must weigh your movement, action or activity in the light of where you are going.
Anything that gets you closer or moves you forward towards where you are headed is progressive (positive) and anything that doesn’t get you closer or move you forward towards where you are headed is regressive (negative).
A negative (regressive) action is one that takes you backward or takes you nowhere. The path (direction) is more important than the act (action); be sure you are on the right path before you begin to act, move or do.
Thirdly, progress is not just being positively active or acting positively, it must be objective; where are you going? You’ve started moving (motion) in a positive way (direction), to where exactly is this positive movement, action or activity leading you?
What do you hope to achieve at the end of all your movement, action or activity (Objective)? The element of objectivity as one of the principles of progress suggests the importance of beginning with the end in mind. Progress is moving gradually but steadily along a path that was chosen by you with the aim of achieving something specific at the end of the path.
It involves moving forward along the path of your choice in pursuit of something you really want. It is moving in a forward direction towards a known destination.
It will be absolutely foolish on your part if you decide to move, act or perform an activity without first determining the endpoint or outcome of such an activity. It is not just enough to be moving (motion) your movement must be positive (direction) going after something specific (objective).
Fourthly, progress is not only active, positive and objective; it must also be SIGNIFICANT; why are you going where you are headed?
You’ve started moving (motion) in a positive way along a defined path (direction) and you know exactly where this path is leading you (objective), but do you know why you are in pursuit of that objective (Significance)?
What’s the essence of the objective you are pursuing? What role will the fulfillment of the objective play in your quest for progress in life? Is the objective meaningful; something that contributes towards your overall goal in life? Is the objective measurable; something that is tangible?
Not all objectives even though specific are significant. A significant objective is one with a rewarding potential. That is; it offers benefits that make the objective worth pursuing.
The significance of an objective lies in its inherent value or benefit to you, others and the universe. An objective by itself has no value unless when its fulfillment aids the achievement of a larger vision.
Finally, progress is not only active, positive, objective and significant; it must also be relative. That is; progress does not occur in isolation. It is and must be measured in relation to certain other factors such as time, place and the prevailing circumstances, conditions or realities of the unique individual or group in question.
What is referred to as progress today may be referred to as regression, the opposite of progress tomorrow. What is called progress in a particular place may not be progress to someone else in another place.
What I may refer to as progress given the season of my life and the prevailing realities I may currently find myself may not be regarded as progress by you considering the circumstances which you find yourself.
Meaning, progress is also relative because it means different things to different people under different situations or conditions.
How do you measure progress?