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Goals and "The Gap"

I was reading an article today and it helped explain to me why I at times feel so stagnate and as though I am not progressing as fast as I feel I should be with how much work I put it. I am sure everyone has had this feeling at times. For example, you may say to yourself I want to squat 200kg when you first start lifting when you can only currently squat 40kg. Over the weeks, months, and years, you do make some great progress but you never really stop to reflect on where you started. You get to a 170kg squat after a couple of years but you feel like you have gone nowhere. You think to yourself "I got 160kg 4 months ago, I'm going nowhere". But if you stopped and reflected on where you actually began and all the things you have learned and achieved in the process, your outlook would be a lot different. The first mindset is quite disappointing while the second one is one of gratitude. So the key point out of all this for me is that I do have to stop and reflect and measure against where I was at times, not to always measure against my ideal.

Now I am not saying to sit back and think what you have done in the past is great and you have to stop working hard. You have to set new targets to try to achieve. If you aren't progressing it is hard to be happy. But I am saying if you start to feel down or a bit disheartened it can be a good practice to think about where you started and where you have currently got to. Sometimes it is really good for your motivation and helps you stay on the path.

This also reinforces the point that "you improve what you measure". If you don't measure the weights you lift, for example, you will think you have not progressed at all, or you may think you have progressed but actually haven't. The memory is very poor when it comes to things like this. That is why it is important to have accurate records. The other week I was feeling weak in the gym on the incline press. When I reviewed my training records I was actually 10kg stronger.

These are very basic examples. Most of what I am talking about refers to bigger life stuff but thought they may be ok examples to get your head around the idea.

A key piece from the article:

"Your future growth and progress are now based in your understanding about the difference between the two ways in which you can measure yourself: against the ideal, which puts you in what I call “The Gap,” and against your starting point, which puts you in “The Gain,” appreciating all that you’ve accomplished.

When you’re in The Gap, you feel as though you haven’t accomplished anything at all. This is because even though you’ve moved forward, the ideal remains distant from you. The ideal is a moving target. It might even get bigger, leaving you worse off than where you started if you measure against it. You’ve also used up time and energy getting to where you are, so if you don’t measure the progress, you’ll feel like you’ve wasted that time and energy and have fallen even further behind.

But if you turn around and measure your progress against where you started, then you’re in The Gain, and you’ll experience a sense of having moved forward, of having achieved something, and you’ll be motivated to continue on to your next stage of growth.

— Dan Sullivan

Here are two definitions of “ideal”:
  • satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect; most suitable

  • existing only in the imagination; desirable or perfect but not likely to become a reality

Here are two definitions of “goal”:
  • the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result

  • a specific, measurable, and time-bound outcome or experience a person is seeking

Once you’ve made tangible progress on your goals, it’s important to measure, track, and report your progress. That progress should clearly be measured against where you were when you set your targets, not against some vague imagination."


Personally I spend most of my time in "the gap". This drives me to keep pushing hard to progress. I need to also spend a bit more time in "the gain" to appreciate what I have achieved along the way. Just thinking this about this concept really helps me understand why I am feeling a certain way at times and allows me to get back on the right track. If I am a bit down start thinking "gain" mentality, if I ever get ahead of myself fall back into the "gap" and start pushing hard.

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