Making progress is a problem when everything feels frozen. As it does right now in lockdown. We are all running our own personal marathons and cheering each other on. Keep going! You can do it! Not much further now!(?)
Progress is a basic human need. It is implicit at the tip of Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, allied with both self-actualisation needs and esteem needs.
Most of us need to feel like we are making progress in life, personally and professionally. We want to feel like we are advancing and moving forward, developing skills, improving relationships, expanding networks.
But such a sense of progress may be difficult to achieve in the time of Lockdown Three, mid January 2021, the most testing lockdown yet.
Of course progress is possible. Online learning has necessarily exploded with options. Solutions like Zoom and Microsoft Teams can help team-working and collaboration up to a point. But nothing can replace the in-person physicality of previously normal life, the immediate, positively infectious synapse-sparking energy it provides.
For many, professional life and a sense of career might currently feel frozen.
If you are struggling to find work, if you are jobless and have been for a while, everything can feel futile. It might even feel like things are regressing, you are going backwards and entertaining much lower paid and less stimulating jobs than you would like. This can feel like a backwards step and the total opposite of progress.
Some might suggest it is all in the mindset. You sometimes need to go back in order to go forward. You simply have to feel positive and hopeful, as hard as it can be.
Progress means different things to different people. We are all allowed our own interpretations, no matter how prescriptive it can appear in self-help books or social media updates.
Interpretations of progress can vary wildly depending on self-awareness or self-esteem.
As a relatively unambitious freelancer I achieve a sense of progress and take some small pride in simply keeping going.
It’s not always easy and there are likely to be challenging periods. In those periods you grapple with huge self doubt and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. You think about searching for proper ‘grown-up’ full time jobs instead of tolerating the sometimes crippling insecurity.
For others with more structured careers in larger organisations and perhaps more ambition, progress means something different. It might equate to greater responsibility and a higher salary.
There is the accepted rule of steadily rising pay in employed roles, offering a boost in status and esteem. (Another nod to Maslow). Leaving aside issues around the gender pay gap, there is an accepted white collar rule that you should make more money the older you get, that your experience and years on the earth should roughly correspond with your income.
Progress in perseverance
For freelancers it is slightly different as you have to adjust and adapt to your chosen market, billing accordingly. So you build pride in keeping going, probably these days also in developing a respected profile online, rather than working up a hierarchical ladder. This arguably doesn’t feel as much like real progress.
But it is. We see it reflected in independent businesses, in shopfronts and brands that show off the year they were established. It can be prominently positioned alongside a logo to exhibit heritage, experience and authenticity. It reflects the value of keeping going, of sticking in there through difficult times. Which is also progress.
There is value in the most obvious sense of progression, in professionally growing and developing. But there is also value in the less obvious sense of keeping going, adapting and adjusting along the way if needed.
At a time where we need to draw on reserves of mental stamina to address the stultifying boredom of day-to-day lockdown life, this is worth remembering.
Keep going! You can do it! Not much further now!(?)
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