The Circle of Progress

circle of progress

Circles are interesting shapes. With no beginning, end or breaks, they beautifully portray the concept of connectivity. All points on a circle are linked together. This idea is helpful when thinking about how we make progress toward a goal. Just as the points on a circle are linked, our experiences influence our thoughts and beliefs, which ultimately drive our choices.

As we move into the second month of a new year, you may already be regretting some missteps or abandoned resolutions. It is easy to become discouraged when we fail to follow through on a goal. However, rather than fall into self-recrimination, it is helpful instead to discover where the “weak link” in our chain may be.

As an analogy, think about the way water moves throughout the atmosphere. Water vapor evaporates into the atmosphere, condenses into clouds, eventually becomes heavy enough to fall as snow or rain and then the process begins again. If any one of these systems were to fail, the entire cycle would come to a halt.

Similarly, what we think, feel and do is all connected. All these factors come into play when we seek to pursue positive change.

Have a look at the image below:

Let’s look at each of the four pieces:

>> INTAKE >>

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

~ Solomon

Each day we are exposed to an assault of images, messages and opinions. Some of these we control (e.g. what we watch on TV), while others we do not (e.g. the opinions of friends and coworkers). Often, we are unaware of how much we are being influenced by external forces. For better or worse, we are likely to internalize messages to which we are repeatedly exposed.



“Keep your mind on the great and splendid thing you would like to do; and then, as the days go gliding by, you will find yourself unconsciously seizing the opportunities that are required for the fulfillment of your desire.”

~Dr. E.G. Hubbard, The 4-Hour Wisdom

Thoughts provide a connection between our external world and our internal world. They are the way we process what our senses have experienced. We cannot control what thoughts pop into our head, but we can manage the time and energy we allot to them. Not all thoughts deserve equal attention, as some are untruths that need to be mindfully dismissed.



“The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.”

~Frank Lloyd Wright

What we repeatedly think about eventually “hardens” into our beliefs. All of us have a worldview that includes our values, morals and self-perceptions. Beliefs connect our thoughts to our plans. We are driven to pursue goals that we believe are both desirable and possible. Consider any great historical figure and you are likely to find strong convictions that undergirded the achievement for which he or she is known.



“Do it, and then you will feel motivated to do it.”

~Zig Ziglar

Progress ultimately comes down to taking actions that aligns with our beliefs. For instance, if I am unhappy and work and believe I can get a new job, I will cultivate a plan to get one (e.g. write a resume, network, attend a job fair, etc.). In contrast, if I believe myself incapable of securing alternative employment, I will avoid dealing with the issue, distract myself from my professional unhappiness and succumb to self-pity over my lousy situation.

By definition, taking action results in change. We go new places, hear new messages, see new things and encounter new challenges. These become our new sources of “intake,” and keep us moving around the circle. Sometimes we will encounter difficulties, and often we will need to try a new approach or secure a different resource. Nevertheless, a re-oriented trajectory exposes us to new options which, when aligned with our beliefs, can keep us motivated and pressing forward.

*     *     *     *     *

Making progress isn’t easy. If you have been in a longtime struggle to achieve a goal, some aspect of your circle of progress may need adjusting. Have you been taking in negative messages? Are you allowing destructive thoughts to dampen your resolve? Are you believing lies about your situation or abilities? Is it time to take a leap and see where it leads you?

What goal would you like to make progress against this year?

24 thoughts on “The Circle of Progress”

  1. I also love your analogy and the way you explained it with fabulous quotes. I often talk to my clients about cycles of things – doing laundry has a cycle, making a meal has a cycle and so on. You’ve given me another way to approach this with my clients. Thanks!

    1. That’s such a good point, Diane. Almost everything has cyclical elements. Meal planning for sure! All it takes is one time realizing you didn’t buy a needed ingredient to remind that you that lists come first, then shopping and then cooking. The laundry cycle – talk about one with no end:)

  2. I particularly like “Do it, and then you will feel motivated to do it.” ~Zig Ziglar. I found that when we overthink a process, it doesn’t move at all. But, when we write down the steps and start the process, we get energy and drive from the act of completing a part of it to continue. A quote that comes to mind for me is “Just do it” from Nike. Too much thinking stagnates the process, and we never move beyond the thinking phase.

    1. Sometimes I get stuck in that “overthinking it” process. In fact, I seem to be most vulnerable when I have spare time. When I’m crunched and every minute counts, I tend to just take action because I don’t have a second to waste in thought! Nike sure hit the nail on the head, right?

  3. “Not all thoughts deserve equal attention.” This is so true. With one of the mindfulness meditation practices I do teaches me to let thoughts pass through like clouds in the sky. We don’t ignore them, but we don’t engage in them either. It’s not easy to do. I’m still practicing. I know it will help me reinforce the concept that not all thoughts are helpful. If we can let go of the ones that are destructive or untrue, step back and just observe them, we can acknowledge them but disengage in their power.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…How to Prime the Pump to Make Great ChangeMy Profile

    1. That’s a beautiful image, of clouds floating through. We can’t suppress the thought, we just don’t dwell on it. I agree that it is sort of like deflating a balloon; we experience the thought or emotion, choose to decide it isn’t worthy of deeper attention, and then it loses the ability to hold us hostage.

  4. I love photography, but find that I need structure to make it part of my life. I’ve signed up for courses, but they usually require me to take images that don’t interest me. I also tried a 365-day challenge, but that was too much, considering that I have a business to run. Then I decided to find a 52-week challenge and it’s perfect for me. It gives me structure by assigning a weekly theme, but offers the freedom of interpreting that theme however I want. And weekly is a lot more realistic for me. I’ve managed to stay on track for 19 consecutive weeks!

    Now, to find a way to apply this method to some of my professional goals…
    Janet Barclay recently posted…Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018!My Profile

    1. Wow, 19 weeks and counting… that is terrific, Janet! I agree that the task-a-day can feel daunting, because some days we just don’t have any margin. Isn’t it great to find a formula that works for you? From where I stand, you are doing great with hitting professional targets:) We all have that “list” of items we hope to tackle someday. One by one, we prioritize and chip away. It’s all good!

  5. The Circle of Progress visual is an eye-opener! It takes three steps to get to Action–so much can happen in those three steps to prevent us from getting to act upon and reach our goals. If we focus our efforts on the paths of Intake, Thoughts, and Beliefs it’s much easier to hop, skip, and jump into Action. Great post!

    1. Often we berate ourselves for not taking action, but underneath we may be falling prey to a false belief or destructive thoughts. If we can address the root causes of the hurdle, the rest more easily falls into place:)

  6. I find this to be completely fascinating. Obviously (to myself, anyway) I have succeeded at things, and other times, not at all. Something went wrong along the way. Negative thoughts. Bad beliefs. Not enough action. I love this and I’m reading it over and over!
    Tamara recently posted…I Fear I Have Nothing to GiveMy Profile

    1. I’m so glad it is resonating, Tamara. So often we berate ourselves over lack of action, but perhaps it is another aspect of our perspective that is actually tripping us off. Maybe we are believing a lie, or getting stuck in destructive internal messaging. Better to fix the root cause of the hurdle than just power through actions that we don’t feel good about. When our head is the right place, the action becomes much easier!

  7. This is great Seana. It is so helpful when we focus on our thoughts and beliefs and I really think sometimes we need to question them. Is this really the truth. Is this really what I believe about myself. “Some are untruths that need to be mindfully dismissed”. Thats a great mantra. Especially, with those negative thoughts that are holding us back and keeping us stuck and not able to move forward with our goals. Great food for thought!
    Kim recently posted…Getting Motivated – Week 5My Profile

    1. Sometimes, we’ve believed these lies for so long that it doesn’t occur to us to question them. I think of people who have been fed destructive messages since childhood… so harmful! But it is possible, often with the help of an outside perspective, to challenge assumptions, clear the mental garbage, and make a change. There is always reason to hope!

  8. This post reminds me of one of mine, called “What are you worried about? Don’t worry; take action!” (also “Does Progress Equal Happiness?”). In it I quote Meryl Streep, in her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the movie “The Iron Lady”:

    Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
    Watch your words, for they become actions.
    Watch your actions, for they become habits.
    Watch your habits, for they become your character.
    And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
    What we think, we become.

    Have you heard that before? Don’t you love it?
    Hazel Thornton recently posted…My New Year’s ResolutionMy Profile

    1. Wow, what a great “poem” from Mrs. Thatcher… absolutely true! It’s all related. I actually attended a seminar on anxiety last night where I learned that people who struggle can sometimes improve their performance during attacks by saying, “I am excited” instead of, “I am anxious.” The brain knows the heart is racing, but it can be redirected to think it is for a positive reason. I found this very interesting!

    1. And maybe just go and focus on one. Sometimes we allow our brain and anxieties to keep us stuck when the rest of us is quite ready for action. One small step gets that ball rolling, and once it is rolling, we are in “action mode,” which is where productivity thrives.

    1. Experts tend to focus one one of the four areas, but few acknowledge the strong link between them. If we are repeatedly falling short, it may help to figure out where the “weak link” may be, and taking steps to address it.

  9. Seana, you hit me right between they eyes with the quotes. I needed to hear every single one of them. The Solomon one is one I always reinforce with my children (and frequently remind myself).

    1. Glad to hear we are kindred spirits with the Solomon verse. It really is so true. So much of who we are, and even who we think ourselves to be, is wrapped up with what we allow into our hearts and brains.

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