The danger of success without progress

Sep 03, 2019 |Posted by Jared Simmons | Coaching

Leaders are now beginning to define success in terms of failure–learning to love failure, or to fail forward, or to fail quickly. This is certainly one path, but reframing the focus from failure to progress creates space to identify other less painful routes to success. Progress, ultimately, is the goal of any undertaking in work or life. Success and failure are just labels for outcomes–the process is where your lessons are learned and future successes created.

When you focus on improving your process with a clear goal in mind, success and failure are possible, but progress is inevitable. You will get better because you have a better understanding of the implications of your choices and actions. It’s easy to learn “what not to do” from a failure, but what will set you apart is the ability to learn “what works for you” from your successes. Doing more of what works is the fastest path to your next success.

There are countless guides, templates, and tools on how to set strong goals. Choose one that works best for you. The most important part of any goal-setting process is making sure that it’s achievable, but not easy. That’s the key to growth, no matter what you’re trying to accomplish.

Why progress matters

Progress matters most because success can be attained without it. One can always find a lower bar to clear with ease. And it’s this one-off success–lacking growth and true achievement–that creates an environment where we feel the need to celebrate failure. Failure has become an indicator of a lesson to be learned–and it can be in some cases. But so can successes won in the pursuit of growth-focused goals.

It’s much easier to learn from failure at a growth-producing goal than the successful accomplishment of an easy goal. Chasing success without focusing on progress means that you only learn lessons “the hard way” and move forward from one-off successes without a clear path to the next big win. A progress focus will deliver the right kind of success: growth-producing, educational, and repeatable.

How do you move forward from your successes? Do you give them the same scrutiny as your failures? What does progress mean to you?

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Jared Simmons

Jared is the founder of Outlast Consulting LLC, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations with strategy, process improvement, and professional development. He is an engineer by training with experience in market research, product development, innovation, management consulting, and strategic planning at P&G, McKinsey, and Coca-Cola.


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