The Progress Principle

Summary: “Pleasure comes more from making progress on goals than from achieving them.”

When working on major projects that are important to you, maintaining a clear vision of what you want to accomplish is important, but it’s best to focus most of your attention on the progress you are making on the specific action steps you must complete to accomplish the vision.

Savor every step along the way that represents any meaningful progress rather the hoping for some significant rush of positive feelings at the end of the project.

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, author Jonathan Haidt discusses the progress principle and advises us that, “Pleasure comes more from making progress on goals than from achieving them.”

As people approach closure on major life goals or projects, they have usually already integrated the expected outcome into their reality of what is possible for them and it no longer serves as a significant motivating factor. In other words, people have usually already moved on to, or are thinking more about, their next goal at that point.

In terms of your biology, dopamine is Mother Nature’s feel good chemical that rewards you each time you take a step in the right direction in life. If you focus on the progress principle when working on a project, Mother Nature will constantly reward you each step along the way with a shot of dopamine. Consider any pleasure derived from closure as a bonus.

Pay special attention to the progress principle if you are leading a team of people working on an important project. Keep members of the team focused on making progress, completing steps, and celebrating progress frequently.

Embracing the progress principle is a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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