Progress Isn’t Linear

A lot of times I get frustrated and feel like I am not making progress on my goals, especially when I feel like I am not as far as I was in the past. One thing I constantly have to remind myself is that change isn’t linear. I think a lot of the time I and others just expect progress to stick and when it doesn’t we feel like failures.

Directing change is hard, even when we establish routines or get better at a skill we are going to have some days that are not as good as others. This is okay. Being a person means that you are not going to be perfect. Being better every single day is just not feasible, especially when life gets in the way. The important thing is that the general trends of our lives are positive. We are going to have good and bad days and we are going to have better and worse seasons of life. As long as we keep pushing forward and try to make sure that we are trending towards better things everything is going to work out just fine.

Choosing Change w/Caroline Reese

Caroline with her husband Justin. The subject of many of her songs.

Caroline grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania riding show jumpers. After high school, she pursued a singer/songwriter career while attending Princeton University. About five years ago she left the east coast behind and moved to Montana. She now owns her own D2C meat company. Below is an outline of three things she feels are important to consider when making and thinking about big changes:

  1. Road maps are not as important as passion.
    • “I have come to believe that whether it’s in business or your personal life, if you follow what you’re passionate about – even without a clear roadmap ahead – you have a much higher chance of success.”
  2. You don’t have to commit to things right off the bat. Feel free to take a risk and expect to fail.
    • “When I decided to make the move from Pennsylvania to Montana to take a job on a cattle ranch I was going to give it my all but fully expected to head back home with my tail between my legs after a few months. Instead, I fell in love with the work and even though I had a steep learning curve I quickly started putting roots down in the new state and lifestyle.”
  3. Once it is all over don’t forget the work you put in.
    • “I think a lot of times it’s tempting to look back at a big change in your life and consider it destiny or somehow fate. It’s easy to gloss over how hard it was. But despite the hard days and the slow start to my career as a business owner, way deep down it always felt like I was in the right place at the right time. And that was how I knew to stick it out.”

What’s Next for The Blog

Thank you to all who have been reading over the past few months. I wanted to provide an update as to the content that will be coming out over the next few weeks!

  1. Interview with Caroline Reese (April 22nd)
    • An interview with Caroline Reese. Caroline is a Princeton-educated singer-songwriter who moved out to Montana to start her own D2C food company.
  2. Opinion Post (April 26th)
    • The next opinion post is all about the ups and downs of progress. Many people think that progress is linear, but it is not. Progress has its ups and downs, just because you lose a step or two does not mean you are not making progress.
  3. Looking Back (TBD)
    • In this post, we are going to look back over the last few months. Expect some follow-up on earlier posts!

Three Change Influencers You Should Know

Caroline Reese grew up on the east coast touring as a singer songwriter. In 2016 she moved to Montana and started her own D2C meat company. She documented how she navigated that change on her Instagram and blog.

Alan Deutschman is the author of the book Change or Die. The book outlines how and why people change. With applications in areas such as prison rehabilitation and corporate change.

Charles Duhigg is the author of The Power of Habit. The Power of Habit outlines how people can take advantage of small habits in order to change their behavior.

Change is Interpersonal

Sometimes we are not good at identifying the change that is happening within us. It is in these times that having good friends can be hugely beneficial. In my earlier posts, I talked about how it is important to come to terms with change if you want to let it be a positive thing in your life. But sometimes before coming to terms with change we need a little help even identify that change is happening in our lives. Improvement is typically an incremental act and sometimes it can be easy to be discouraged if you are not able to notice the progress you are making.
Also, change is not always something you can accomplish entirely on your own. A lot of times people who are dieting, for example, utilize people who are close to them in order to help facilitate their change. Admitting you need help can be difficult but it can help facilitate the changes you desire to make.
It is also worth noting that change is not always something that is specific to one person. External changes can affect all of this, the coronavirus pandemic being the premier example. The pandemic was a rare moment when virtually everyone in the world had to deal with a sudden change at the same time. Although some may have felt alone, it was a rare moment when we were all in the same mess together. Many people lost their jobs, had to work remotely, and deal unexpectedly with trying to home-school their children. But also many people found new hobbies, started new businesses, and connected virtually with friends who live far away. Sometimes change sucks and there might not be a way to make it a good thing. But almost always, there is at least some silver lining to be found and sometimes to find it we need to rely on others.

Change is Personal

Change often happens on a personal level. Sometimes you realize it is happening. When this happens, your response can turn it into a positive or a negative experience.
A lot of time change is a process of understanding yourself better. People like to trick themselves into thinking that they know all there is to know about themselves. A major unexpected change can often lead people to realizing that their underlying self-assumptions are not completely reflective of reality. Sometimes this can mean people surprising themselves with how they handle a situation. Other times it can lead to people being disappointed with how they reacted. But regardless of the type of realization, unexpected change is a chance for serious self-reflection.

Change is Constant

     “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often” These words are often attributed to Winston Churchill and while I agree with the sentiment, I think it misses an important detail. Change is always happening, the key to “perfection” (if such a thing can be achieved) is directing it. Change is happening all around us the seasons, the tides, roads being built, roads being worn down, etc. Whether or not change happens is not up to us. We partly have in our control the direction of change and the only thing that we have fully in our control is our reaction to it.
The second law of thermodynamics tells us that left unattended, disorder always increases in the universe. Things are always changing and if we are not careful, that change will take the form of decay. If we cannot fight change then the only other option, we have is to work with it. This will look different for every situation, so I am not going to spend time going into the details here in this post. But what I do want to make clear is that we need to accept that change is going to happen.
Accepting change as a given is the first step in being able to let it be a positive thing in our lives. I feel like we as people often spend a lot of time worrying about losing the things (or current way of life) we have. It is good to have things we cherish but if we worry too much about losing those things or having things change, we will not only hamper the enjoyment we get out of them currently, but we may also shut ourselves off from things we may enjoy even more.

You Don’t Need to Share Life Changes Right Away

When I began to leave my faith around my senior year of high school, I didn’t tell many people. I wanted to be sure of my decision before bringing it up to others, not least to avoid unnecessarily hurting my parents. I did eventually tell my parents, it went well, but I did wait until the right time and until I was more confident in my decision. Oftentimes personal change can be painful not only for us but for those around us. Sometimes certain relationships require us to break news slowly.

Now I want to be clear, I am advocating not springing major news on people unexpectedly. I am not advocating suffering in silence. Almost every personal change is better dealt with when sharing it with those closest to you, but it is not always best to share it with everyone close to you. Especially if those around you are suffering in some way. Although it may be helpful for you to share with more people, it can sometimes be harmful to them. Sometimes relationships require the balancing of those two factors.

How to Deal With Switching Cultures

Jan is a Polish international student at The King’s College in New York City. Before coming to King’s Jan attended a private college in Boston. Jan had to overcome a lot of linguistic and cultural barriers when he first arrived in the United States, but in retrospect, he doesn’t view the process as being that difficult.

“I grew up in a multilingual and well-travelled family, so for me the
culture shock of moving to the US wasn’t as bad as it might be for
other foreign student. Although, I remember my parents telling me that
I should go with the high school in Boston because it was the most
European city in the US, as they described it.”

Although he had a good foundation for moving to the US, Jan remembers the first year here being particularly difficult. He realized that just knowing the language is not sufficient to truly feel at home.

“The first year living in the US had the steepest learning curve, as I
realized that my relatively strong language skills were not  enough to
catch the cultural references. Although the US is a relatively
low-context culture where it is easy for immigrants to communicate and
be understood, I found sports and TV analogies to be the most
difficult to get over.”

At first, Jan avoided making friends with other international students from Poland. He worried that he would be stereotyped. Ultimately he got over this.

“My high school was 30% international students, so naturally it was
easiest to form a friend group with mostly non-Americans. I don’t seek
out Polish people abroad, because there is a strong stereotype of
Polish emigrants being jealous of one another and generally not being
very trustworthy. So, I surprised myself when, not even a week into my
high school experience in Boston, the only other Polish guy and I
became friends as soon as we met. We came from vastly different
backgrounds and we don’t talk as much now, but during those two years
in high school we were best buddies.”