the illogical curve of progress

2021, lifestyle

Hello,

Being someone who loves setting goals, tracking progress and analysing data (except my step count, we don’t talk about that), writing challenges like NaNoWriMo suits me down to a tee with word count tracking, you’re actual average word count per day and an estimation of when you’re likely to hit your word count.

But in looking at the two graphs that monitored my progress, I noticed something that made me think.

This is the graph of my word count per day – I was aiming for 40,000 words, but more importantly I wanted to write a little bit every day, even if I didn’t meet my goal one day and I had to write extra the next, those were my two priorities.

This graph would suggest that it was a pretty steady curve up to my goal, consistent progress, falling behind on a couple of occasions but catching up, even getting ahead a couple of times towards the end, but relatively steady progress.

Then you compare it to the graph of how many words I actually wrote per day.

I wasn’t writing consistently at all – some days I wrote 2000 words, most days I wrote about a thousand, on my worst day I barely wrote 100. Although my progress appeared linear – a predominantly straight line from Step A (0 words) to Step B (40,000 words), there were 31 steps in between with good days, bad days, busy days, quiet days, sunny days, rainy days and everything in between.

And it got me thinking about the bigger picture – perhaps a bit existential, but life is just one long (short?) journey from the Beginning to the End, a supposedly linear experience from childhood, to adulthood to old age and ‘The End’, making consistent progress in growth in every aspect from education, relationships and physically growing.

But it’s never going to be a straight line from one point to the other – life has ups and downs and good points and bad points; it always feels more like the second graph than the first one.

So I have two points to make;

  1. If you feel like everyone around you is living a life like the first graph – a solid, straight line from Point A to Point B, it’s more than likely you can’t see the behind the scenes that looks like the second graph. Life is full of nuances and struggles and things people keep off their instagram profile, so the picture they paint online isn’t necessarily the full story!

(side note: I fully believe Instagram as a highlight reel is a okay, because having a space full of happy, positive memories is lovely, it’s just changing the user perspective to remember that Instagram is just a highlight and not someone’s complete story!)

2. If you feel like you’re stuck in the second graph, feeling more lows than highs and not sure whether you’re making any ‘progress’ at all (though, who decides what progress is and whether we’re making it??) – remember you’re seeing your life zoomed in, the bigger picture probably does look more like the straight line, but you have to go through the ups and downs to get to the bigger picture that is the end of the graph. The second graph with it’s wobbly line and all it’s peaks and troughs is the zoomed in detail you don’t see from the first graph and you’re doing a okay.

I don’t know if any of that really made any sense, but I found it comforting and a nice reminder to zoom out sometimes – everything’s okay really.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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