Are you making progress?

· 1 min read

When I was in school, I only needed to move from one year to another with good grades to feel like I was on track. Later at work, both the breadth of my responsibilities and financial compensation measured my progress. I completed projects and it felt great. I was driven to excel at my hobbies: played competitive billiards, finished yoga teacher training, learned how to juggle, do a handstand, and more. This mindset worked for a while... Until it didn't.

For a few years, I felt stuck. I tried time and again to rekindle that same drive I used to have. More achievements at work, new hobbies, and new people – what seemed so meaningful previously was no longer exciting. I craved the sense of moving forward, yet nothing I knew how to do gave it to me. I remember trying to explain this to a few friends. They quickly concluded that I was depressed, should try harder, and if therapy didn't help, I could maybe try medication.

It's common to think of life in a linear fashion. Gradually we'd like to increase our wealth, knowledge, security, strength, power. Get what we want while avoiding what we don't want. Unlimited linear growth. To many – this is the definition of progress.

The popular practice of setting measurable goals five years into the future has a fatal flaw: it assumes the same goals will be desirable by a future you. However, if you knew where you were going and arrived there as planned, did you travel at all?

In Fantastical challenges, I argued that there's always this one thing you know you need to do; the thing you do anything to avoid. It's what's referred to as "staying in your comfort zone." For me, quitting my job, moving out of my apartment, and discontinuing my hobbies turned out to be the next step in an unknown direction.

I'm 30 years old, and I no longer know who I want to become when I grow up. It finally seems like I'm making progress. What about you?