The Wheels of Progress

How you handle the successes in your life is just as important as how you handle the failures. You’ve no doubt watched someone who had a habit of squandering the momentum generated by one or more successes. They go up and down like a yo-yo, never moving upward on the ascending spiral of eternal progress. The promise of upward movement is quickly rejected, that is, they move up the spiral slightly, but just as soon as they do they either get fearful or cocksure and waste the momentum on some trivial, or worse, damaging pursuit.

Some even go so far as to make this a strategy in living. They convince themselves that they have been “good” and then indulge in a “bad” thing or two using the logic that they’ve earned it or deserve it. This sense of entitlement gets a lot of people into a lot of trouble. This habit often shows up in relation to dietary choices, but it also effects, or should I say infects daily decision making about relationships, attitudes taken towards others, and money.

If you try to act “good” to build up a bank account so that you can indulge in your favorite peccadillos, you will invariably stop the momentum you’ve generated. You may even go backwards! Righteousness, that is, doing the right thing for the sake of being right, is a no-strings-attached state of being. If you do right out of a concern to get something, you will fail. It always backfires.

Others do this unconsciously. They go through a good patch and because of a lack of self-worth, a conviction of eventual failure, or a basic mistrust in life itself, they wait in their heart or the recesses of their mind for the other shoe to drop. They refuse to open themselves to the possibility of eternal progress because it flies in the face of their deeper beliefs in things like Murphy’s Law (i.e. if anything can go wrong it will…and to me). This stubborn stance closes the window of opportunity that was opened by the success they were having and they stand there with their backs to the window saying “See, I told you so!”

When people feel good about themselves, they tend to get sloppy in their decision-making. Have you ever read about someone who won the lottery? That momentary success tends to breed a whole litter of failure that quickly devours the lives of the so-called “winners.” Have you ever watched a person on a meteoric rise to stardom? It’s rarely a pretty sight. The problem isn’t going fast; the trouble comes when you live life fast and loose.

It’s easy I suppose to analyze or criticize others in this regards, so, enough about them…what about you? What do you do with the little and large successes you have? Do you hold and protect them, nurture them, study them, and learn from them so that you can build on them? Do you treat the momentum as you would a ski jumper whose successful completion of the next jump depends upon his wise and judicious use of the momentum generated from the last? Or do you put on the brakes and start skidding to a halt out of fear or do a wild victory dance as you’re approaching the next jump and find yourself out of position when the next challenge comes along?

I am not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate, but I am saying that the momentum you generate should be handled with great care if you wish to continue in the direction you began moving (i.e. upward) when you have a victory, be it big or small. Relationships, careers, and lives are made and broken on this basis. If you want to live your life by fits and starts, then, by all means waste that momentum. If not, you’ll have to watch more closely when you start moving up the spiral.

Eternal progress is possible. It is within your reach, but you must let yourself be open to it. That’s really half the battle. From there you will begin to discover the fulfillment which comes with doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. You’ll stop bargaining “good” for “bad” in your life and more importantly, you’ll stomp out the little fires of self-destruction that you probably lit yourself, either deliberately or accidentally when the wheels of progress started turning.

2 thoughts on “The Wheels of Progress

  1. Carol

    Agree with you Steve. I’ve already read it 3 times. Every reason for not progressing is outlined here as well as the solution. To do the right thing takes the attention off the fears, the perceived injustices, and the distractions. It reminds you of your purpose for being.


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