Progress has little to do with up or down, promotion or demotion, more or less. Progress, on a personal level, has to do with the development of our True Self; a deepening inner-knowledge of the things which are actually of value in our lives.
Each year in June I feel I am forced to reevaluate my life; to reassess and contemplate. I was brought into the world on the 7th of this month and, in my adult life, the arrival of my birthday has almost demanded moments of introspection and investigation surrounding the question, “Have I made any progress in the past year.” I think we all do this to some degree or another on important dates and occasions. Too often, I believe, we reveal our lack of understanding of what is truly important in life by the ways in which we assess our progress. “Have I grown?” has little to do with career advancement, salary increase, or the accumulation of new goods or accolades. So how should growth or progress be measured?
We are tempted to feel like we are making progress when there seems to be advancement in outward areas of life. If we get a promotion we can easily believe we are “moving on up”, but what about when you get fired or experience rejection? Do we believe we are “advancing” when our worldly status is challenged or dismantled? If our measure of personal progress is founded on the sands of the external, I can assure you that the house you are building will eventually come crashing down and all will be lost. You will not keep your job or notoriety forever. You probably will lose your health, your spouse or your 401K. Death will come knocking at our door, each in turn, and in those final moments the externals people have placed so much hope in will mean nothing; dust in the wind. There is a rock, an internal Reality, that can be continually developing and growing, that is not tossed about by the waves of circumstance and trials that are bound to try to shipwreck us in our lives. When progress is judged by internal development, we get a much clearer picture of how things are really going.
So what does it look like? There are inner realities that are secretly (or not so secretly) growing (or not growing) within each of us that are more certain indicators of personal advancement than are external happenings. “Do I have more Peace than I possessed last year at this time? Do I have a deeper, more residing experience of Joy? Have I advanced in Patience? Do I find myself more full of Hope for the future and today? Do I value the people around me increasingly; seeing their potential and not their faults?” These are questions that begin to answer the questions of actual progress on a deeper level. If these questions seem soft, boring, or lacking real substance to you, then consider the possibility that you have been neglecting what is of actual importance for much longer than you know.
When we begin to judge our personal growth based on questions similar to those posed above, we start to see how we are actually shaping up. Jobs come and go, as do things, and quite honestly they don’t matter much. How your joy and peace, encouragement and love impact others has lasting implications that will far outlive you. This is the legacy we live; the contribution we can offer. If we are not adding to the Light we are only perpetuating darkness. If we are not living as vessels of hope we are adding to despair. Careers end but our impact doesn’t have to if our focus is on those parts of us that are unseen and eternal.
So how did I fare this past year? I know in my heart, more than ever, that I am Loved. I would say that I have fewer outward goals than ever before in my life, but that my desire to be a blessing to others and to enjoy life fully has never been so intense; all consuming. I have been tested and walked through trials in the past year and have arrived at a new place of being; I am less concerned with the opinions of men than ever before. It feels like growth. Even now my heart is filled with a peace and knowing that although things haven’t went “perfectly”, I am growing in Love and Knowledge, and that is progress that cannot be shaken or robbed by circumstances.
I pray your life is full and vibrant, and that you would be one who sees progress not in terms of dollars and cents, but measured by your personal, growing experience of Love, Peace and Joy.