Achieve Legacy Fulfillment in Midlife by Embracing Incremental Progress
In the late 1990s I had a boss who taught me an important lesson. I was working on a project and he observed that I was attempting to drive toward perfection, which would mean completing the project later than we had planned. He sat me down, looked me in the eyes and I’ll never forget what he said. “Bernie, incremental progress is better than eventual perfection.” In this context, it pertained to getting a project completed, even if it was less than perfect.
Since learning this concept, albeit in the context of a project, I have understood the power of incremental progress. In fact, I have applied this principle in many areas of my life including relationships, my health, my fitness, and yes my career.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of incremental progress it involves setting a goal and making small, consistent improvements or consistently taking steps towards achieving the goal. The key is having a larger goal in mind through the journey of incremental progress. This approach is based on the understanding that achievements are the result of many small actions accumulated over time. I devoted episode 155 to this topic.
I’ve learned that incremental progress is particularly beneficial for personal growth and development because it allows you to experience gradual improvement. It inspires persistence, consistency, and Resilience. There has been much written about incremental progress. Following are three examples:
- Harvard Business Review discusses the concept of “small wins” as a way to motivate employees in creative work. The idea is to help individuals take small steps forward every day to achieve their goals, emphasizing the significance of incremental progress.
- Stanford Graduate School of Business highlights a study where focusing on smaller sub-goals before tackling a larger objective led to more successful outcomes. This supports the idea that incremental progress can be an effective strategy in achieving larger goals.
- A scientific paper mentioned that incremental improvement projects can have a significant cumulative impact on a company’s product or process. It demonstrates how incremental progress can result in substantial positive changes.
In the context of Midlife, I don’t have to tell you that we sometimes experience roller-coaster periods characterized by ups and downs, reflection, and reassessment of our life’s purpose. Incremental progress offers you a powerful approach to personal development because it removes a big burden you may have placed on yourself, similar to the perfection I was striving for in the work example I shared above.
Midlife is a season of life where you may be thinking about self-growth or reinvention. You might be adjusting your life trajectories, and pursuing new goals with the wisdom gained from past experiences. The beauty of incremental progress is that it is gradual and ongoing. It aligns well with this period in your life where you are thinking more deeply about personal growth and maturity.
Incremental Progress Across the Five Pillars of Midlife
My guidance is to apply this principle of incremental progress across the five pillars of your life. Set realistic goals in each pillar, then begin taking small steps towards them. Be sure to recognize and celebrate progress along the way. This will allow you to maintain motivation, inspire a growth mindset, and prevent the feeling of overwhelm by your big goal. This will make it easier for you to manage the complexities and challenges that can come with achieving each goal in each Midlife pillar.
When I started my Midlife Fulfilled podcast, I committed to working on it two hours per day. Since I have a full-time job, I elected to achieve this by working on the podcast one hour early in the morning before work and one hour in the evening after work. Additionally, I committed to not less than 5 hours on the weekend. The math adds up to about 15 (usually closer to 20) hours per week. At the time of publishing this blog post, I’ve released 155 podcast episodes, 25 blog posts, one research report, and one digital-workbook, working at it incrementally about 15 to 20 hours per week.
The takeaway I offer you on this principle is that by starting with a goal and focusing on incremental progress, you can navigate through Midlife seasons with personal growth and embrace the potential for life-changing achievements and fulfillment.
Chasing Legacy Fulfillment
The biggest pillar for me at this stage of life is my legacy pillar. One of three ways that I want to achieve fulfillment in my legacy pillar is by reaching many more people over 40 to empower them in their quest to thrive across these five pillars. At the current time, my podcast and blog are my primary methods to achieve this. Currently, I publish two podcast episodes each week. And, I average one or two blog posts per month. In the future, I plan to put on events, and soon I will launch a free online private group where we can commune online, talk, listen, and support each other.
These are incremental steps for my legacy fulfillment. While I have ideas about other ways I can reach more people to impact their fulfillment potential, I remind myself that I am making incremental progress.
This leads me to the other benefit of incremental progress – mental health. My consistency in the activities I just described, which truly results in incremental progress also has the benefit of permitting myself to feel like I’m making progress. And, it feels good. I actually do feel like I’m making progress. And, that’s good for my mental health.
I admit that I often score myself on the amount of progress I’m making. It’s natural to do this. I’m competitive and I want to make more and more progress, faster and faster. But, I also look at the cumulative progress I’ve made, and I allow myself to have pride in the progress that I have already made. This progress motivates me to keep going.
I often remind myself that I’m only human. I can’t get everything done that I’d like to get done, across all of the five pillars as quickly as I would like. As long as I am consistently making incremental progress toward a long-term goal, I’m okay with that. And, you can be too.
In which of the five pillars do you need to remind yourself of the power of incremental progress? Are you giving yourself enough credit for the incremental progress you’re making? Are you on the path to your end goal with this incremental progress? Maybe, you’re further along than you give yourself credit for and you can cut yourself some slack!!!
My affiliate link to Castmagic, which I use to help produce my podcast.
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