How Progress Happens, From the Inside Out

How Progress Happens, From the Inside Out January 2, 2019

Life can certainly feel like we are stuck on the tumble cycle. Round and round we go, never quite getting our bearings, never truly making progress. We migrate from one circumstance to the next. But we are stuck with our selves. Circumstance and situation fold over us. Scenery changes, emotions manifest in a different order. But life feels the same. Our perceptions, our attitudes, and our choices are what need to be changed.

The external staleness of the world mirrors what is happening inside of us. If we want the outside to change, we have to treat the inside. First things need to come first. Progress ends out in the space of culture; but it begins in the quiet caves of our own soul.




Progress begins with turmoil. We sit in our patterns until our patterns feel inadequate. The felt need for change is the beginning of change.

One of the most tragic things we do as humans is trick ourselves into ignoring our need for change. We want to progress. But the mantra that so often runs through our heads can sound a little like this, “it is going to take work and it’ll be hard, and maybe it isn’t so bad and it probably won’t even work, it’s actually “their” fault and “they” need to change….”

Feeling the strain of our dissatisfaction includes owning our responsibility for it. It is nobody’s fault that you are facing the consequences of your decisions. If you feel numb, angry, bored, restless, or lost, it is time to acknowledge the strain.



Strain isn’t enough. Even honest strain. Some of us love to just sit in the strain. We rant and rave, wail and moan, about the woe that has befallen us. We wax poetic about the ills of the world and the injustices we’ve experienced.

But, if we want to progress, we have to turn our strain into learning. Suffering is an opportunity to grow. The catalyst for progress. But we have to walk through the door.

Learning consists of exploratory questions. Why do I feel this strain? What can I do differently? Again, the focus is on what we can control. Anything else is a waste of time.

The reason strain is valuable is that it opens new opportunities. New possibilities. We mine our hearts, thoughts, and behaviors with new fervor. What we find there is the hope of progress. A new way to think, to do, to be. But if we aren’t looking for learning, we’ll let the opportunity pass us by.


New Patterns



As we find new ideas and practices, we start to do things differently. And as we see evidence of betterment, we reinforce the things that are causing it. This develops new patterns that can transform our lives.

But we’re kidding ourselves if we pretend there is a magic bullet of change. Progress is a never-ending process. We make changes, develop new patterns and, at the same time, expose new strains. We change a little at a time. There is no magic wand that we can wave to make everything perfect. Perseverance is the lifeblood of progress.

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