In my administrative work for several researchers, I’m often asked to help prepare progress reports for granting institutions. In addition to providing the granting institution with “proof” that work is being done with the money provided, the progress report gives the researcher an opportunity to examine where the project started, where it’s headed, and what has been accomplished thus far. As I was preparing one such report today, it occurred to me that those of us who are working towards a particular food, exercise, weight, or body image goal also need to do periodic progress reports.
The ultimate goal is to be able to recognize our own progress, but I know that it can be hard to remain objective. Some of us who are prone to perfectionistic thinking look at where we are and say, “But I haven’t reached my goal yet.” We minimize the short-term goals that have been met and overlook the small triumphs we’ve had. People like us may need an outsider’s perspective, someone who knows us well, knows our struggles and can say, “Here’s where you were and here’s what I see now.”
There are several things we and our loved ones can keep in mind when assessing progress:
* Any progress, no matter how small, is progress! Look for any movement towards the goal.
* There is no such thing as perfection. We human beings are works in progress. We will never be perfect, but there can be a day when we are in tune with and respectful of our body’s needs.
* Progress can be measured by a change in our thoughts, our attitudes, our emotions, or our behaviors in a way that is congruent with our goals.
* Sometimes, even in research, there is no progress made on a particular goal. This can be due to lack of energy to devote to the goal, fear of failure (or success), ambivalence about the goal, the goal being too big or unrealistic, etc. The good news is that this is normal! Researchers in the field of counseling psychology and addictions have theorized that individuals go through five stages of change; the first three of these stages (precontemplation, contemplation, and goal-setting/planning) occur PRIOR to any action. So, not seeing progress is a normal part of the process of making a change.
* If you feel particularly “stuck”, consider talking to a mental health professional.
What progress have you made towards your goals? Celebrate your successes! Forgive yourself for perceived shortcomings. Recognize that change happens in stages.
Peace, joy, and health!