Why You Aren’t Making Progress (It’s Not Why You Think)

Why you aren't making progress

You did what you said you’d do. You showed up. You pushed through even when you really didn’t want to.

How long has it been since you started?

Months? Years?

Only you know, because based on the results, people would think you started recently.

You don’t have anything to show for the hours you put in. Nothing brings you closer to your goal.

At this point, the only thing that keeps you going is the belief that your dreams can come true. There are no small wins to renew your motivation.

Your lack of progress confuses you. You hunch your back over your computer every day. You make the phone calls. You nail the presentation. Still, the progress you make by the end of the day is minimal.

You tell yourself tomorrow will be better.

Really though… Will it?

Beneath the surface, dissatisfaction gnaws at you. You go to work and think, “What’s the point?” It’s not like anything you do pays off anyways.

There’s a heaviness in your chest urging you to do more—be more.

You know you have it in you. Why hasn’t your potential manifested itself yet?

It isn’t just frustrating; it’s demotivating.

#Progress is fuel. Little successes spark light in your soul. They make you want to work more, so you can achieve more. Click to Tweet

You kept at it in the absence of those small wins. You’re determined. You’re going to make it work one way or another.

So, let’s make it happen.

First, we need to uncover the root cause behind your lack of progress.

1) Are You Sure You Haven’t Made Progress?

Yes, Layla. I’m sure. Why else would I be reading this post?

Hear me out:

You are frustrated because despite your best* efforts, you still aren’t where you want to be. (*See #3 for more on ‘best’).

You’re stuck! You don’t know what else you can do to sell more products or snatch that promotion.

Take a moment to reflect:

  • Where were you when you first started?
  • Are you still at that point or have you moved forward?

Unless you started last week, I don’t think you’re at point zero.

You say you haven’t made progress, but you have. You just feel like you haven’t made progress.

That begs that question:


You take a step forward, and your progress halts.

You get used to the new place you’re in. A month or more later, you take another step. Then you get used to that level as well. When you look around, it all looks familiar. It doesn’t seem like you moved forward at all.

If you look back on where you started, you’d realize how far you’ve really come.

You don’t feel like you’re making progress because you are continuously raising the bar.

You aren’t satisfied with the progress you make. Your goal is like the carrot hanging over a mule’s head. You take a step forward and your goal moves further away. Click to Tweet

Do you remember where you started? How far have you really come?

(Want to know why achieving your goals will also take longer than planned? Click here.)

2) Are You Tracking Your Progress?

When you visit your grandma, what does she say?

“Oh Marrisa, look at you. You’ve gotten so skinny” or “Hey Danny, you put on some weight.”

You don’t notice a difference in your appearance; you see yourself every day.

Your grandma, on the other hand, only sees you on the holidays. The changes you don’t even notice are prominent to her.

The same goes for progress.

You can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame.

You are immersed in your work. The little day-to-day increments pass under your radar.

Rarely do we step back to look at the full picture of the road we’ve paved.

The problem isn’t that you aren’t making progress…

The problem is that you’re not noticing the progress you make.

You won’t skyrocket to the peak of a mountain. You’ll take one step up, then another. You might skid back down a bit, then reclimb.

The ground ahead of you is all dirt. It always looks the same. You’ll only see a difference when you stop climbing and look around. Click to Tweet

You might find that the peak is right ahead of you. You’ve came so far you can’t see the bottom anymore.

By tracking what you’re doing, you get immediate feedback on your improvements.

For example, here’s a screenshot from the Goal Tracker 2.0:

With each task you finish, you climb higher on the mountain of success. You can see the progress you make with every completed activity.

If you don’t track your progress, you will always feel like you aren’t making any.

3) Are You Honest with Yourself?

This is a tricky one.

You’re going to want to answer ‘yes’, but ponder this for a moment:

Are you honest with yourself?

At the end of the day, can you honestly say that you gave it your all?

Did you do your best or did you settle for good enough? Click to Tweet

If you said you’d work for 2 hours, did you do the whole two hours or did you quit after 40 minutes?

About two years ago, I devastated by my lack of progress on this website. I worked on it 8 hours a day. I wrote articles with my best productivity tips. I posted on social media. I reached out to influencers and experts.

I worked as hard as I could.

Or at least that’s what I told myself.

In reality, I was slacking off. Sure, I was writing posts, but I could have done better in the delivery.

I was publishing on social media, but I would never interact with any content.

Even though I was telling myself I was doing all I could. I could have done better.

When I realized what was happening, I sat with myself and really thought about how much I was willing to give for my success.

If I wasn’t going to put in everything I had, then why waste my time?

I figured I might as well spend my time on something that I cared about enough to work hard on.

I decided I did want to grow this business, and I changed my approach. I worked harder even when I didn’t feel like it, and I saw the difference!

My readers interacted with my content more. I received emails about how my articles and spreadsheets helped people achieve their goals.

I was elated! Those results encouraged me to be more diligent, and here I am today, a few years later, happy with the progress I’ve made so far and motivated to make even more.

Are you giving your goal your all? Do you give each activity your all? If not, do you want to? Or should you direct your efforts elsewhere?

4) Does Each Moment Count?

When you set a goal, you aim high.

Go big or go home, right?

Yet, with our focuses on a goal so far away, we neglect the small wins that get us there.

The little achievements that lead up to your end goal are just as important as your end goal itself. Success takes time. The only thing that will keep you going during the hard times are the moments you celebrate along the way.

If you only care about the big win at the end of the journey, you won’t savor the process. The journey is the most enjoyable part of success with all its ups and downs. Embrace every moment of it.

Here’s an example:

You set a goal to gain 1000 newsletter subscribers in 5 months. 3 months have already passed, and you only have 650 names on your list.

You didn’t celebrate reaching 100 subscribers—you still had 900 left. You didn’t care when you reached 500 subscribers; half-way done, but lots more to go.

You’re two months away from your deadline with 350 subscribers left to gain.

You find your results discouraging. The motivation you felt when you started is gone. Now, you’re just angry. You begin work every day with a negative attitude. It won’t be long before you quit.

With your focus on the end goal, you’ll only feel like you’re making progress when you’re close to your goal. Unfortunately, you won’t make it there if you get discouraged by not getting there quick enough.

What would happen if you reached your goal every week?

Wouldn’t you feel more encouraged to keep going? Wouldn’t your progress feel more tangible?

Weekly goals give you a weekly dose of motivation. These goals are like steppingstones that take you closer to your goal every week.

Check out my post on how to set weekly goals that work for you here.

5) Are You on The Right Path?

Everything you’ve tried so far has not brought you any closer to your goal.

You’ve taken course after course and read book after book. You have still not moved forward.

In this case, you may want to ask yourself if you’re doing the right tasks.

Look a year into the future, if you continue doing what you do now, will you be where you want to be? Click to Tweet

If the answer is no, it’s time to revise your plan.

Let me tell you about Vanessa.

Vanessa wanted more traffic to her new fitness website. She gave away her best weight loss tips in every article. She devised a weight loss program that had a 100% success rate. She gave it her all and waited for the results.

A year later, her traffic was still at 500 visitors/month.

Vanessa took the right first steps by creating useful content. Yet, her approach to traffic was all wrong.

Although she gave away her fitness secrets, that task alone didn’t lead to her end goal.

She didn’t optimize her site for search engines. She didn’t gain exposure through social media.

She had the goal in mind but wasn’t on a path that led to success.

‘If you want something you’ve never had you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.’

— Thomas Jefferson

Planning is a dynamic process. Most people set the goal, plan their journey, and go through the actions without stopping to verify they’re headed where they want to go.

Months or maybe even years later, they realize that all that work has taken them nowhere.

Frequently reviewing your progress informs you whether your actions are paying off.

Consider the Life Audit Powerbook:

The first step to conducting a life audit is seeing where you are, but that doesn’t take you anywhere.

The true secret of the Life Audit Powerbook lies in the progress review sections. You plan to improve with detailed steps and come back at regular intervals to see if you’re near your goal. If not, you have the option to modify your plan and devise your next steps.

(Is your goal taking you to success? Find out using the PDSA cycle.)

Progress Is Motivation

Progress keeps you going and proves that your hard work matters.

The lack of progress—or even the perception of lack of progress—is a serious issue that discourages many from fulfilling their dreams.

Luckily, most causes of lack of progress are easily fixable, whether it’s due to being on the wrong path, neglecting the small wins, or constantly raising the bar.

What’s causing your lack of progress? Let me know how you’ll combat it in the comments below.

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Why You Aren't Making Progress (It's Not Why You Think)