“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
You only need to enjoy a single viewing of Jurassic Park to understand that not all progress is positive. As Ian admonishes John Hammond, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
In the beginning, progress requires a lot of change.
We have to try new stuff, test out new ideas, and figure out what exactly are the primary levers we need to pull to get where we want to go.
It’s not uncommon, then, for people to mistake change for progress.
But eventually, all of the necessary changes have been made and pushing further actually does more harm than good. At that point, progress just means doing the right stuff day-in and day-out for the long-haul, making only minor adjustments and iterations along the way.
Here are some practical tips to navigate the fine line between change and progress:
Clearly define your goals: It’s easier to make progress when you know what you’re aiming for. Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). This way, you can gauge your progress and know when it’s time to stop pushing for change and start refining what you’ve achieved. Learn how to define your goals here.
Be wary of big changes: Think long and hard about big pivots when you’re already a long way down the path. Those things are often enticing because they’re different… but they might not actually give you the results you want.
Focus on making small adjustments: Small adjustments to already-healthy habits or outputs can have a surprisingly large impact over the long-haul… and that’s what really matters in the end.
Accept when you’re not going the right way: Progress is not always a straight path. There will be times when you realize the direction you’ve taken isn’t leading towards your goals. This is a crucial moment. It takes courage and humility to admit that you’re off course, but it’s an essential step to making true progress. Once you acknowledge the misstep, you can recalibrate and chart a new course. Remember, every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.