Beware of the Illusion of Progress

mocha moments

Merrill’s Marauders (named after Frank Merrill) was a United States Army long range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit, which fought in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, or CBI, during World War II. Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (15 March 1911, Atlanta, Georgia – 19 October 1998, Beaufort, South Carolina) was a journalist and author of memoirs and non-fiction works. His best-known work was The Marauders (1959), a first person account of the Burma Campaign in World War II. In fact it is from the Harper’s magazine 1957 article “Merrill’s Marauders” that earned Ogburn his book contract. In this article Charles said:

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating THE ILLUSION OF PROGRESS while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.”

Is it just at the national level or is it at also at a personal level that we use reorganizing as a way of appearing busy and feigning progress? A coaching client of mine tells me that when faced with stuff he knows he has to do he usually starts with reorganizing his office. What about you: what do you choose to reorganize before getting started on the important project or having that hard but necessary conversation? The truth is that most of us prefer to linger at the “three to get ready” point and not ever reach to “four to go” where we would actually have to DO something.

In fact what most of us do is ramp up the amount of confusion in our lives just so we don’t do those important things that might prove that we couldn’t really, weren’t capable of or failed at the very thing we said we were passionate about.

According to Keller and Papasan, the authors of ‘The One Thing’ you say:

“You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. The simultaneous demands of work and family are taking a toll. And what’s the cost? Second-rate work, missed deadlines, smaller paychecks, fewer promotions—and lots of stress You claim you want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends.”

But do you really WANT these things? Your choices tell a completely different story. Your choices suggest that what you really want is not to be a failure and not to look stupid. You have two degrees but feel you need a third. Going to school has in itself, become a career for you. Richard Saul Wurman observes in ‘Information Anxiety’, “The same people who would delight in confessing to sexual indiscretions or income tax evasions blanch at the idea of saying ‘I don’t know.’ Instead we all practice the ‘uh-huh and yes’ defense. We all learn how to respond with a look of thoughtful intelligence to even the most incomprehensible information.” You don’t want to appear as not knowing what you’re really doing and so you’ve created a smoke screen of being a “work in progress” – busy but never quite completing anything and actually making REAL progress.

In her book ‘Inspired’ author Marcia Yudkin cautions

“Getting ready keeps you in a safe zone where failure isn’t possible. You have the illusion of progress even while you are simply spinning your wheels. You have the comfort of plausible excuses, such as “I don’t know enough yet” or “I’ll do it after I quit my job.”

If you’re part of the 95% who are kicking up loads of dust getting ready to take action know that you have EVERYTHING you need RIGHT NOW to take that NEXT STEP! You’ve taken countless classes, spent years assembling your tools, created the perfect office space and devoted yourself to the controversies among experts on how to get started.

It’s time for the number four to surface for you as a symbol of progress – “4 to go” that is! Are you ready to make REAL progress in your life?



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