Every week I send out a progress report to all of my Aspyrre group clients. It’s a series of 3-5 short questions that require you to spend 15 minutes reflecting on what changes you are noticing in your thinking and behavior, how you are handling challenges, and what you want to focus on when it comes to growth and development over the next week.
I have often noticed and shared on group calls that clients who fill out the reports on a regular basis seem to progress significantly faster than those who don’t. In fact, the incredibly rapid progress made by clients who fill out the reports intrigued me enough to try an experiment.
What I Did
I am on my own e-mail list, so I get my own progress report requests, and I decided to start filling them out, and to notice any differences that happened as a result.
Each week, when I received the progress report request, I typed my responses to the questions, and then moved the e-mail to a file folder. I didn’t fill it out every single time, but over a period of 12 weeks, I filled the report out approximately 8 times. I didn’t have a coach or anyone else read or comment on what I wrote, but I have often stated that the benefits don’t come so much from getting feedback as from the actual writing process, so this would be a good test of that. I simply filled out the form when it showed up in my in box, and then filed it away.
The results blew me away. When I went back and read my reports, the change from February to May – just three months – was obvious. I noticed that I had made tremendous progress on the “theme” I had picked, which in my case was “detaching from the drama of doing and not doing”. In February I had complained in the report about how I would get angry with myself when I procrastinated or behaved in a manner I judged as “lazy”. By May, the anger was completely gone. I still procrastinated or had lazy days sometimes, but instead of judging myself for wasting time, I was more self-encouraging. I paid objective attention to how much my “time-off” really relaxed me, and what was really going on with me when I felt tired or unmotivated. In just a short period of time I started noticing how fickle my feelings were, and how great I felt after getting started on things that had seemed overwhelming even moments prior. I felt like two separate parts of me that had been at war for years over whether in any given moment I should be hard at work or enjoying a well-deserved break had finally reached an accord.
The other thing I noticed is that my relationships with my teenage children and my husband changed. The kids seemed to hang out and talk with me a little bit more, and my husband seemed more supportive and affectionate. I imagine that at some level they had been picking up on the angry energy I emitted as I was fighting my internal battles and were now picking up on more peaceful happy energy from me. Interesting.
All of this, just from spending 15 to 20 minutes writing myself the answers to five questions each week?
Well, yes and no. I believe that the writing triggers my attention clarifies my focus. It reminds me of what I said I was going to work on. Then it forces me to notice things I might not have paid attention to or remembered otherwise. When I notice those things my mind makes connections and I learn what works and what doesn’t related to my intentions. As I learn, I make slight adjustments in my thinking and behavior as I go through my day, and those adjustments get reinforced because they have positive results. It all builds on itself. Essentially, we use the progress report as a tool to focus our attention on our perceptions and self-talk and notice how much they influence our behavior and life experience.
Want to Try?
If you would like to try this experiment for yourself, here’s what you can do:
First, come up with a theme, which is like a goal, but it’s related to how you want to change yourself. For example, if you want to get a promotion, you can ask yourself how you would have to change in order to increase the chances of getting that promotion. Let’s say your answer is “show up as a leader in my work environment” Then you ask, how does a great leader show up in the work environment? Maybe you think about some leaders you admire, and come up with, “they understand the big picture – where the organization is going, they take an interest in what everyone is doing, and they help remove obstacles so those people can more effectively do their jobs”. You decide that one change you can realistically make in yourself starting now is to “take more of an interest in what people are doing and see how I can be a resource”. So you make that your theme.
Once you have a theme, answer the following questions each week:
- What is my theme and how am I doing with it?
- What challenges am I facing?
- What am I learning and how am I thinking differently?
- What do I most need right now?
- What do I want to focus on this next week?
Save all of your responses, and after about three months go back and look to see how you’ve changed. If you are anything like me and the other progress report writers in my Aspyrre group, I bet you’ll notice a big positive difference.
If you decide to take this on, I’d love to hear your experience with it and your results – you can send me a private e-mail or post your comments on this page.