“It is not strange ... to mistake change for progress.” 

-- Millard Fillmore 


Change happens.  We can’t avoid change. 

New technologies are created. 

Markets bear and bull. 

Companies merge. 

Organizations come together.

Children are born. 

Rain falls.  Tides turn.  Lives evolve. 

We are always in some form of transition, always arriving at some new place and dealing with new rollouts, new ideas, new everything.  The very molecules inside the cells of our bodies are in constant flux.  Our world and our lives are always changing, but they are not always progressing.  It is natural to resist what we view as change.  However, we embrace what we view as progress. 

Progress means: forward movement, advance, gradual betterment.  It takes awareness, character, discipline, and effort to progress. 

Change is inevitable. 

Progress is a choice.

The word progress carries a forward thrust and focus, a vibrant and transcendent quality that the words change and even success don’t deliver.  With every success comes the desire for more success. 

When we reach a goal, our natural ambitiousness tells us that the goal is also the stepping stone to the next, possibly more rewarding and worthwhile, goal.  Therefore, every success establishes a new norm, and brings with it the question:  What next

The road to success is always under construction.  We are always striving for something.  (I will share that the something I am referring to is not a person, place, or thing, but rather a feeling.  A mixture of six feelings, to be exact, but we will deal with that soon enough.)  Continual striving can become quite unpleasant and unhealthy if we do not take time to soak in the positive buzz – feelings – from our forward momentum. 

When we focus on daily progress, we are able to feel daily satisfaction.  With every forward step, we see more clearly, our confidence grows, our position improves, and our options multiply.  We progress toward today’s goal on the strength of our past progress.  Once achieved, today’s goal becomes tomorrow’s launching pad. 

“Out of every fruition of success, no matter what, comes forth something to make a new effort necessary.”

-- Walt Whitman

When a new opportunity comes our way, we internalize it, and size it up as Progress or Change.  This new opportunity could be starting a new relationship, buying an electronic gadget, working extra hours on a project, getting up to speed on a new product line, working to meet quota, anything.  All progress is change, but not all change is progress.   

Let’s say I have an upset stomach. “Man, I’ve got a stomachache.  Ouch!  My stomach is killing me.  This has got to change.”

Somebody hears me, walks over, and punches me in the nose.  Is that change?  Yeah, it’s change.  But it’s not progress.  Well, maybe to the person who punched me, but not to me.

What may seem like progress (good) to one person or group of people may seem like change (bad) to another. Propaganda, book burning, even war and murder are all thought of as “progress” at some point in the minds of the perpetrators (scary).  Because progress is subjective, there is no single factor that clearly determines whether an event represents progress or change. 

However, we can say that we:

-        Start businesses to progress, not change 

-        Hire employees to progress, not change

-        Work on teams to progress, not change

-        Make the tough choices and the tough phone calls to progress, not change

-        Keep our cool when dealing with belligerent customers to progress, not change

-        Cross the road to progress, not change

-        Answer the phone to progress, not change

-        Spend our hard-earned money to progress, not change. (We would rather keep our change than change, but will offer our best to progress.)

-        Diet and exercise to progress, not change

As we age we realize that slowing change can be progress.  Think of the forty-year-old swimmer who manages to equal her performance from five years before. Maintenance is progress in that it avoids change for the worse.  

We do not want life-changing products, services, experiences, ideas, and opportunities. We want life-progressing products, services, experiences, ideas and opportunities.

We should be careful not to mistake mere change for progress.  Just because something is new or flashy does not mean it is right or adds meaning to our lives.  And as my friend and fellow author Shama Hyder says, we do live in a “next big thing” world.  However, because all progress is change, people who claim to be 100% “resistant to (any) change” are often choosing to be resistant to the possibility of progress.

To Change Is Human; to Progress, Divine.

Be Progress.

Quick shout out to Alex Pope

If he were among us today, eighteenth-century English poet Alexander Pope would likely be one popular guy on Facebook.  It was he who wrote the lofty words, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”  Pope is said to be the third most frequently quoted writer in the English language, after Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Contributed by: Dean Lindsay, Award Winning Speaker and Author of The Progress Challenge