If you are an ambitious person, you have lofty goals. And if you have lofty goals, you are likely fixated on them. This is a good thing. It helps you succeed. The problem is that this is not so good for happiness. You will always have unachieved goals. This is the point of progress. You will never "make it", but instead be striving for something.
The key, as we've heard many times before, is to enjoy the journey. But that's hard to do if all you do is think about how far left you have to go to achieve something. What does make it more enjoyable, is to appreciate the progress we have made so far.
It is not difficult to zoom out and appreciate progress, it just takes effort. Like measuring any gain, you want to look at a period of time and compare it against a previous time period. You can reflect on any period of time, but I think the most useful ones are day, week, month and year. However, I should say that for work sessions and sprints, the exercise can be used for hours as well.
The hard part is to be consistent about measuring. It's challenging because it's not a daily habit so much as periodic de-briefs. Here's an exercise on how to check in.
- Every evening/morning - what gains have you made in the past day?
- Every Friday - what gains have you made in the past week?
- Every 1st of the Month - what gains have you made in the past month?
- Every 1st of the Year - what gains have you made in the past year?
For each of the time periods, reflect on the following categories:
- Career Development
ex. Got a promotion, started earning more, more career happiness
- Personal Relationships
ex. Milestone anniversary with partner, developed new friendships, spent more time with family, etc.
- Passions and interests
ex. Learned a new sport, launched a new side project, etc.
- Physical and mental health
ex. Reduced anxiety, more present in the moment, started eating better, exercised every day, etc.
The depth or your reflections should roughly match the time period you are reflecting on. A daily reflection may take only a few minutes, but a yearly reflection a few hours.
You can collect your reflections anywhere that feels right to you. However, whether you use a document or a notebook, it's recommended you keep all the reflections in one place so that you can look back later in life. You never know, perhaps you'll want a grand reflection someday towards the end.
For more information on the ideas behind this concept, read The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers' Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success