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Dan Sullivan, founder of the Toronto-based Strategic Coach, has found that his clients fall roughly into two categories: those who are happy and fulfilled, and those who are stressed and dissatisfied.  The main difference between these two groups is the following:

  • The people who are happy and fulfilled measure their progress by comparing where they are against where they’ve come from.
  • The people who are stressed and dissatisfied measure progress by comparing where they are against their ideals.

Sullivan uses the analogy of the horizon to describe the nature of people’s ideals. No matter how fast or how far you travel, you don’t actually reach the horizon. Wherever you are, your brain creates a new horizon ahead of you.

Our ideals are mental constructs which, by definition, are external and distant. Like the horizon, our ideas are mental constructs, and not actually aspects of reality. As such, they can be an excellent marker to help us set a direction. This can be really valuable. However, what our ideals are not useful for is measuring progress.

Happy, fulfilled people have a habit of focusing on how far they’ve come; and unhappy, dissatisfied people have a habit of focusing on how far they have to go to reach an ideal. Since an ideal is a mental construct that (by definition) can’t be reached, you can understand why they’ve been feeling unhappy and dissatisfied.

If you have the habit of focusing on your ideal, and not recognizing your progress, you can begin to reverse this habitual focus by making a conscious effort to celebrate your progress on a regular basis. Celebrate and acknowledge your wins, even the small ones. If you have made any progress it will usually be enjoyable to compare where you are with where you were.

Create rituals where you look back and recognize where you started and how it compares to where you are now. Practice identifying and acknowledging the progress you have made. This is the practice of happy high achievers. Doing this on a regular basis gives you energy and motivation to continue with your journey. The clients in my coaching program enjoy many opportunities to celebrate their progress, both large and small.

It’s okay to aim for your ideal vision. Defining some outrageous goals can be useful for several reasons. Outrageous goals are often more inspiring than realistic goals. Outrageous goals get you thinking outside the box, thinking bigger, and can be the catalyst to move you in the direction of having a more fulfilling life. However, don’t get trapped in thinking you are not successful until you reach those outrageous goals. By the time you reach those goals you will have probably set another more outrageous goal. Enjoy the journey, pay attention to your progress, give thanks, and allow yourself to feel successful along the way.

Exercise – Acknowledging Your Progress

Take a few minutes to reflect on where you were last year at this time. What was happening in your business and in your life? Now compare that to where you are now. What has changed for the better? What have you learned? Please include any progress you have made, even if it is small. This is your chance to celebrate and acknowledge yourself: and to give thanks!

In my coaching business, I invite my clients to celebrate their wins each time I speak with them. Here are a couple recent examples of client celebrations:

Starr has an income breakthrough.

Lisa stops smoking and no longer has any cravings.

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