A Reminder That Progress Isn’t Always Linear

by | Dec 24, 2020 | Mindset, Training

This is something I’ve been thinking about as we wrote Becoming A Consummate Athlete and I was working on the Point A and Point B concepts, and then trying to work out a conclusion to a book about habit change. It’s something I’ve been thinking about as my younger sister absolutely crushes her goals to start running and improve her health and body composition, and I’m able to watch her amazing transformation in real time.

Progress isn’t always linear

We don’t always go straight from Point A to Point B…

And after we get to Point B, we still have the rest of our lives ahead of us

This last part is actually one of the more interesting parts that I’ve been thinking about as my sister closes in on her goal weight. What’s next? Or what happens if the goal simply isn’t happening, or you fall behind on your progress? When things stop moving in a smooth upwards trajectory, that’s where the rubber has to meet the road. This is where things can go awry in a hurry, as suddenly we either need to redefine a new Point B and work towards a new, upleveled goal, or we need to rethink what our original Point B looked like—what we don’t want to do is say “well, I’m done now” and give up.

I think there are a lot of people who hit the goal weight, finish the marathon, complete a triathlon… hit their goal, and then stop because… well, they’re done, right?

Not really, but that’s how goal setting and achievement has been set up, so we tend to start thinking that after the finish line, we’re finished. It’s why people gain the weight back, lose the ability to run, even sink back into depression because suddenly, once they achieved their fitness goal, their old routines and patterns re-asserted themselves.

You will have seasons:

  • Racing seasons and offseasons, where you’re hitting Point B, then into an offseason where you just don’t know what to do next, or your power numbers drop slightly as your body rests and recovers, which feels frustrating.
  • Seasons of life, where work or family takes precedence over sport, and when you start to think about where you ‘used to be,’ you feel like you’ve gone backwards and can’t possibly get back.
  • Seasons of interest, where you’re suddenly finding yourself attracted to another type of goal, for instance, a cyclist who suddenly wants to run a marathon. Your cycling will take a hit as you pursue that goal, and you may find starting as a runner is frustrating. (This is how I feel when I realize that I’m not progressing in my mountain bike skills… but then I realize it’s because I’m running, and not mountain biking.)
  • Even within a regular 3-month training cycle, there will be weeks that are slow, or where you feel slow. That doesn’t mean you’re not progressing!

And there are going to be points where progress feels like it’s slowed, stalled, stopped… or that you can never get back to where you were in the past. But maybe that’s OK too. Maybe there’s a new focus you can work on, a new dream or goal that resonates now. But if you get caught in feeling that progress isn’t happening, it’s not going to happen!

Basically, while we can use the idea of Point A to Point B as a road map, it’s normal and natural to make a lot of detours along the way. Not to be cliche about it, but this comes back to the journey itself being the destination. Make your progress towards your next Point B as enjoyable and fun as you can, and even if the numbers aren’t tipping in your favor yet, you’ll still find a lot of happiness in the process!

We don’t have all the answers—obviously—but at this time of year, when people are either setting a bunch of goals or resolutions for 2021, or feeling guilty about indulging and enjoying the holiday season, it can be easy to start getting bummed out that your progress is in a weird spot.



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