March 4

Measuring Progress

March 4, 2016

Personal Growth

Tony said, “I just had an terrible argument with my wife. After a year of learning Real Love, I don’t think I know anything. Nothing. I’m very discouraged.”

“Oh,” I said, “it’s understandable that you would feel that way. But it’s only because you’re comparing what you did today with how you were doing yesterday. Never judge how you’re doing day by day.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing. The edge will be about as thick as a table knife, and about as dull as the non-sharpened side. You’ll feel a little friction, but that’s all. But now let’s measure your progress in learning to love by the DAY, and you’ll get a graph something like the following:

Graph

On a piece of paper I roughly drew this graph. “If you cut the piece of steel in this shape and rubbed it length-wise across your arm, what would happen?”

“It would probably cut off my arm, since that’s just like the outline of a very rough saw.”

“Yes, it probably would. Now let’s measure your progress in learning to love by the MONTH, and you’ll get a graph something like this:

monthly graph

If we cut the steel using this pattern—assuming that we have a smooth cutting instrument—what would happen if we rubbed it length-wise across your arm?”

“Probably nothing. It would feel a little bumpy, but that’s all.”

“Right. In fact, when measured by the month, your progress is almost steadily upward, while if we measure it by the day, you’d look kind of crazy. Everybody has days that vary widely, up and down, and it’s just not accurate or sensible to measure your growth by widely fluctuating days. Your overall progress is great, and it’s monthly assessments that confirm that, not daily ones. Don’t get excited about single bad days or moments. They’re not a reflection of you. They’re a result of your daily growth, physical exhaustion, sickness, the behavior of other people, past events you don’t even remember, and more.”

Relax. If you get discouraged about a failure, view it within a more long-term perspective. Daily assessments will hurt you, much like a saw blade. I personally gauge how I’m doing every quarter-year or so. It’s reasonable and encouraging at the same time.

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