Just because you feel like your life is headed nowhere, doesn’t mean that you’re actually stagnating.
In fact, you might have been actually making a lot of progress in life, and you just didn’t know it.
Here are 12 subtle signs you’re actually making progress in life.
1. You’re able to embrace your flaws
A good sign that you’ve made progress in life is that you become less self-conscious about your flaws.
Let’s say that you’ve always been insecure about your inability to wake up early. You have come to call yourself “irresponsible” or “lazy” over it, and would snap at whoever brings it up in conversation.
But at some point you simply stopped beating yourself up for it.
This is likely because you have made enough progress in your life—big and small—so that when you think about it, you say “so what if I wake up late, I’m able to start an online business.”
And the more progress you have made in life, the less you are affected by your flaws and “inadequacies.”
In fact you might even make it a point of pride. That despite all your disadvantages you manage to pull ahead anyways.
2. You don’t envy others anymore
Or at the very least, you don’t envy others as much as you used to.
A clear sign that you have stagnated or have made little progress in life is that you get incredibly jealous when you see people who are doing better than you.
You recall that, when you saw people having big homes, driving fancy cars, and talking about how happy they are with their careers, you would wish that you were them instead.
But now you simply don’t feel that way anymore. You might go “good for them, but that house is too big for me.”
Or perhaps you might go “Why would I waste my money on a sports car when a small van is enough for my needs?”
You want success still, of course, but you have a better grasp on what you truly want and need, so people being simply successful isn’t enough to make you envious anymore.
3. You have fewer “what ifs”
When you haven’t progressed much in life, your “what-if” list is either going to be empty or full to the brim.
You would have a lot of things you simply want to achieve in life, many things you wish you had become. Thus you would spend your days daydreaming about these what-ifs.
But as you progress in life and get a better grasp on your principles and goals, you will find many of those other goals fall off your radar.
Eventually you will come to have a handful of things you feel strongly about and want to strive for. By knowing what you want (which is a huge progress), you eliminated many what-ifs.
4. You’re actually excited about the future
It’s not unusual to feel a little uneasy or even straight up dread the future if you have stagnated or haven’t been making much progress at all in life.
What is there to look forward to after all when you feel like you’re stuck in a dead end?
But if you’ve been moving forward (even if slowly) then you will just feel that the future really isn’t that bleak. Even if things are bad at the moment, you know that you aren’t just standing still.
So if you feel hopeful for the future, then you are definitely making progress in life.
5. You get some attention—good and bad
When you’re stuck in life, people will overlook and underestimate you. But the moment you start making strides—even if you don’t personally notice it— then those same people will pay attention to you.
This is easy to know why. We aren’t exactly setting things in motion when we’re standing still. But when we start moving, we make ripples around us and eventually someone is bound to notice.
A simple example is, if you’re an artist and you’ve clearly become good enough at what you do, people will definitely start to take notice. Some of them are the good kind of attention (you get hired for commissioned work or you get featured in a magazine), but some of them are bad (people pulling you down).
So if you’ve been getting attention lately—good or bad, then it’s a good sign that you’re actually making progress in life.
6. You feel good about yourself
Even if we don’t exactly notice any obvious improvements, the simple fact that we’re getting better every day will make us feel better about ourselves.
We can notice on a subconscious level that we’re not simply standing still and that there’s motion and change for better or for worse.
Sure you might not notice that big of a difference when you compare yourself now to yourself yesterday or a month ago, but what about five years ago?
In fact, you’re probably making subconscious comparisons just like that. In recognizing that you have become better than who you were, you can’t help but feel optimistic that you’ll just keep on improving.
7. You have new problems
There is no pleasure without pain, as people like to say. That definitely applies here as well.
Sure you might feel better about yourself, and perhaps you might feel like you are now much better and more capable than you used to be.
But at the same time, you find yourself stumbling into all sorts of problems— different and more intense than the ones you used to contend with.
This is a sign that you’ve been challenging your comfort zone—that you aren’t content with simply staying still for the sake of avoiding new, strange challenges.
8. You don’t feel others are attacking you
Or, more precisely, you don’t feel like people are attacking you all the time.
When we feel lost and miserable in life, even small questions like “how are you?” or “what have you been up to lately?” can feel insulting. It’s like people are saying “why aren’t you as successful as you should be?”
But when you’re making progress, even if slow, you can take these words as they are instead of assuming insults. You aren’t so insecure that you’re assuming malicious intent out of otherwise innocent questions.
And even if they ARE actually insulting you, you can just laugh them off. You know you’re awesome so why should you even feel insulted in the first place anyways?
9. You’re more calm
It doesn’t matter if your goals are still far away. If you know deep inside that you’re moving forward, then you will feel at ease with yourself.
You know why you feel this way? It’s because you’re actually making progress in your life and you know that you are eventually going to get there.
You feel good knowing that you made at least 10 steps… even if it takes 1000 steps to achieve your goals.
Just knowing what you want and where you’re going staves away feelings of being lost and uncertain, and this helps you stay calm.
10. You’re making new mistakes
You might wonder “Wait, what? Mistakes = Progress?!”
But it’s true, from a certain point of view. Every mistake you make is an opportunity for you to learn and do better.
When you make the same mistake over and over, you’re definitely stuck in a loop.
But when you are making different mistakes and not repeating the same ones many times, then you’re clearly learning and moving forward.
Mistakes are stepping stones to success. They are inevitable and invaluable if we are to achieve our goals properly.
11. You’re doing internal work
Progress starts from within.
Irish novelist John Boyne wrote “The boy in the Striped Pajamas” in just three days. Many novels, including Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange” were written in less than a month.
And yet for days, months, or even years before they wrote these masterpieces, people would have assumed that they’re not doing anything with their lives…that they’re simply “slackers” who are too lazy to make any progress.
But that’s because we don’t see changes that’s happening inside. You’re probably learning a lot about life, getting deeper with your knowledge on many things.
You shouldn’t discredit these things. Behind every piece of art written or drawn within the span of a week is a lifetime’s worth of skill and practice.
12. You’re tougher than ever
People who aren’t making much progress in life do tend to be quite thin-skinned.
One harsh comment and they’d throw away everything they worked hard for in a fit of rage. They’re also not as determined to reach for their dreams because they don’t have much confidence in themselves.
And yet failures can make us tougher. They embolden us, telling us that we can get things done and that we aren’t simply going to fall.
That you aren’t simply going to shatter at the smallest touch or lose your marbles at the mildest criticism speaks volumes about how you’ve grown as a person… and that despite everything, you have and still are moving forward.
It’s not hard to feel like you have been stagnating, and that you simply aren’t making any progress no matter what you do or how hard you try.
Sometimes you might not notice movement because of how the payoff is still years in the making, and sometimes it’s because you simply have been comparing yourself to the wrong people.
But there are often many small, subtle signs giving away the fact that you’re still progressing, growing, and learning.
So if any of these signs speak to you, take heart. You aren’t standing still.
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