Hi all! Welcome to Sustainable Progress and thank you for dropping in on this brand-new blog. If you’re here in or around May 2023, you’re likely one of the first people to stop by, so a particular welcome to you! I’m Orla, a 33 year old finance professional living in Dublin, Ireland. I have spent the last 15 years trying to understand what it takes to be successful, how to overcome procrastination, personal limitations and flaws (among other things) and fundamentally, how to live a satisfying and fulfilling life. It has been a journey full of highs and lows but finally, I feel confident in saying there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hence, this blog!
Where did the desire to understand these things come from?
Around the age of 18, I began to notice I wasn’t achieving results I knew I was capable of achieving and as time continued to pass, I could tell that the trajectory of my life wasn’t going to reflect my potential unless I changed something. My problem, or at least part of it, was that I didn’t know what I what I wanted to do with my life, nor did I know how to make changes that were going to stick in the long term. As the years passed the feeling of wasting time, a lack of progression and being left behind while others moved forward, grew larger. Five years ago, having grown more than tired of this feeling, I consciously embarked on a journey to understand why I was unable to substantively change the trajectory of my life and to uncover the secret to success that was eluding me.
I started by asking the question: How do People Achieve Success?
When you look up success and how to achieve it, there are many different ideas about what it takes to be successful and there are many tools and systems on offer that purport to help you achieve your goals. Some of the more common guidance you might hear includes:
While all of this is helpful advice, not one of these suggestions are independently going to alter a person’s life to the extent that they achieve success just because they follow through on them. One of the reasons for this is that each of these statements makes the assumption that people can just follow through once they decide to do something. It doesn’t take into account that most people have ingrained behaviours to overcome or other limitations that need to be considered when evaluating how they should go about trying to achieve something worthwhile in the long-term.
These proposed strategies for success oversimplify both how to achieve it and the reasons why people don’t achieve it and that is why most people find they don’t work for them in the long run. For a lot of people (myself included!), it doesn’t matter how many of these types of tools they use or suggestions they try, they do not see the sort of progress that they expect when they start out. Overtime, this demoralises them and they become less likely to try in the future.
What’s Missing in these Solutions?
Through years of researching and trying and failing at multiple different methods for achieving success, I came to a few realisations about why these methodologies didn’t work for me and others, which brought about a few core questions which I needed to be able to answer. These are:
- Successful people come from all walks of life. They have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses which suggests no one personality type, background or trait is the key to success. Take professional athletes for example, it is well known that some are naturally talented while others who might be less naturally inclined have just worked their way up to the top of their game despite not having the same innate abilities as others. So, given they both achieved similar results despite having different strengths and weaknesses, what is it that these people have in common?
- A lot of people work hard but they still don’t achieve what they want which means that hard work alone is not responsible for success.
- Not everyone has a passion or knows what their passion is when they’re young. Following your passion is not a relatable strategy for success for many people.
- Success as it’s discussed in the public sphere is not necessarily how most people would define success for themselves. Not everyone wants to be a Fortune 500 CEO, professional athlete, Renowned X, Y or Z, and so on. There are many people who strive to successfully run a small family business, be a stay-at-home parent, be a great coach for the local sports club or an inspiring music teacher at a youth centre, or just lead a balanced life that brings fulfilment and satisfaction across different areas that are important to them. They too would like to be successful by their own definition of success, so what is the advice for people like them to achieve what they want?
- And apart from all of that there is the fundamental issue, which I don’t believe has ever been properly addressed, which is that even when someone knows what they want to achieve in their lives, they can often struggle to sustain the changes necessary to achieve it. Why?
It was when I got to this fifth point that I realised something. The reason why I had struggled to achieve the various goals I had set myself over the years while using any number of the suggested strategies above, was because these strategies are mostly focusing on how to achieve the final 20% of a specific goal. Whereas I had more than one goal and for most of them, I wasn’t even 10% from the starting point.
Think about it. The journey from starting a project or goal to eventually successfully achieving it, can be viewed as a scale from 0 – 100. There is no point working out what you need to do to get from 80% to 100% if you’re not even at 40% yet. You need to focus on the step before the final stretch and overcome the hurdles and challenges associated with that stage before thinking about the final stage.
And that, I discovered, was the missing link I was searching for in all of the blogs and books and podcasts and articles on success. They were focusing on the latter stage of the journey when a lot of a person’s limitations have been overcome and they have a strong personal foundation from which they can succeed. I wasn’t there yet so I couldn’t relate to what they were saying. I hadn’t gotten myself to the point where I needed to think about the achievement of my goals because I was so far away from it. Realising this then led me to one of my final, and by now I suspect rather obvious, questions.
What is it that successful people from all backgrounds, with all their different abilities, strengths, weaknesses and flaws, achieve before the success we all witness comes?
The Stage before Success
On their journey towards success, what is it that these people have developed that enables them to go all the way? Well, if we go back to our success scale from 0 – 100, the answer is that they have found a method of progressing over time, i.e. they go from 10 to 20 to 30 and so on. And they have also found a way to sustain that progress, so they don’t go backwards or stall at a certain point. And that is the answer I was searching for.
Before they achieve success, each and every one of the successful people you can think of has found a way to achieve sustained progress in their chosen field.
That’s it, the step before success. The part of the journey that very few people see and the part that really isn’t discussed in a holistic way at all in the public discourse, at least as far as I have been able to tell.
Once I discovered this missing link in my understanding of success (and after more than a few celebratory dances around the room), I set about trying to fully understand what it would take to achieve sustained progress, not just for me but for anyone. Because what this process also made me realise is that achieving sustained progress is what brings satisfaction in our day-to-day lives. That feeling that we are making progress and getting better and stronger as times goes on is a feeling like no other. If we can manage to do it in a direction that is of particular value to us, that’s where fulfilment joins the party and that, I truly believe, is where the magic sauce of life really starts to make itself known.
There is no better feeling that knowing that you are going in the right direction for you, and you have the capabilities and strength to make what you want happen, no matter where you are starting out from. And so, I set about trying to decode the fundamental framework that any person would need to use in order to bring about sustained progress in their life. And I have made significant progress in that endeavour.
The purpose of this blog is to reveal, explore and dissect the topic of Sustainable Progress and the adaptable framework that I have been using to bring about sustained progress in my life over the last few years.
While I cannot truthfully say it has been an easy journey, nor has it been one without some significant ups and downs, I do feel empowered to honestly say that as a result of using and refining this framework to suit my own personal situation over the last few years, I know now that my life is going in the right direction and I feel more capable and confident than ever that I can direct the course of my life to achieve what I want to achieve.
I believe this framework can be used by anyone to bring about sustained changes and progress in their lives to make themselves stronger, more skilled and more confident in their ability to steer their lives in the direction of their dreams.
And so, I hope you join me on this journey if this is a topic of interest to you.