Knowing How Far You’ve Come: 8 Tips to Celebrate Your Growth

“Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go.” ~Unknown

It is laughably easy to forget to stop and take stock of how far we have come in our lives. Our world focuses so much on what we lack—be it money, beauty, prestige, or romantic success—that it is far too common for us to get trapped in the loop of needing to have, be, or do “more” before thinking that we might be good enough. I, for one, do it all the time.

A year and a half ago I was unemployed with no idea what to do next. I’d spent my life until that point ignoring the conviction that there was something I was meant to do. Since I didn’t know what that calling might be, I played it safe by getting a library degree.

I was pretty good at library work, but I was never passionate about it, which made me an unremarkable candidate for the few remaining library positions after the economy crashed.

All of this left me sitting at home, miserable. Unemployment, combined with a particularly nasty winter, led to a terrible flare up of my lifelong nemesis, depression. To say that I was despondent that winter would be a gross understatement!

Of course, I can now see that this was a blessing. That terrible winter pushed me to realize that something had to change, and fast. I was finished playing it safe and ready to figure out my dream!

Since then, I’ve identified my true calling (to become a life coach), sought training, and now I stand on the cusp of living my ideal life. But is that always how I see the situation? Of course not.

On many days, I find myself focusing on how far I still have to go. I see the programs I haven’t implemented yet and the website that isn’t quite perfect, rather than taking the time to marvel over the fact that I have so many ideas and a website at all.

And you know what? Failing to acknowledge how far I’ve come robs me of a lot of joy and a lot of pride. I may not have everything figured out in my new business, but I’ve come a long way from where I was a year ago.

I would be willing to bet that you’ve made huge progress in the last year, as well, but are too focused on what remains to be done to see it. I invite you to start giving yourself credit for a lot of hard work and achievement.

Some tips to help you see how far you’ve come:

1. Sit down and breathe.

It’s hard to hear the truth when a thousand voices and worries are circling through your mind. Taking just five minutes to sit down and let the voices become quiet can make a huge difference.

2. Ask yourself, “Where was I this time last year? Five years ago? Ten?

I can guarantee that you will be surprised by your answers. Change comes slowly, so it can be hard to see it, but it’s always happening, whether we see it or not.

3. Review your notes.

If you keep a journal or blog, reread some of your old entries. You’ll find written evidence (in your own hand!) of just how far you’ve come when you see what was upsetting you back then.

4. Make a list of your accomplishments from the last year or the last five years.

I don’t care how small or insignificant it seems, write them down! Then look at that list and reflect on just how much you’ve done.

5. Ask a friend or loved one.

We can be our own worst critics, so sometimes those close to us have a clearer view of how much we’ve grown than we have of ourselves. If it feels awkward to ask someone to tell you nice things about yourself, offer to return the favor.

6. Track the personal, not just the professional.

Remember that not all progress is related to your career. How have your relationships, your spirituality, or your self-knowledge improved?

7. Celebrate the little things.

As you go about your day, try to notice when you take even the smallest step toward your goals, and be sure to honor that in some way. Even just writing it down in your journal will give you that moment of recognition.

8. Realize that it’s never done.

We all want to reach the top of the mountain and feel that we have achieved something. We want to be finished, but that’s never going to happen; our lives are a constant work in progress, which is the way it ought to be. Trust me, you’d be bored if you weren’t constantly changing and growing.

Whatever you are working towards, and however far you still have to go, I encourage you to take the time to truly bask in everything you have achieved thus far.

It doesn’t matter if you are moving fast or slow, only that you keep moving! And the best way to ensure that you continue to do that is to cherish each step along the way.

Photo by gematrium

About Joanna Weston

Joanna Z. Weston uses crafts and story to guide women out of the shadowy realms of uncertainty, unhappiness, and anxiety, and into the light of confidence, inner peace, and forward momentum. You can find her at

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  • This is a great post. I’ll put it out there. I see a therapist once a week to deal with some issues I have had since last year. I’m doing a lot better, but still have a ways to go. Anyways, last week my therapist wanted to hear everything about myself and my family and I told her my life story. I told her everything from the problems I had learning from grade school into college(where I excelled), to working hard labor in a liquor warehouse right out of high school. Reflecting on the past helped me to realize just how far I had come in life both personally and professionally. I’m earning a great living professionally right now, but trying to catch up on the personal side. But overall, I do have a lot to be thankful for. Thank you for this post and the reminder to reflect on the past to see how far we have come!

  • So true. I often get caught up with how much further I have to go without taking the time to acknowledge how far I’ve come. And I have done a lot! I should celebrate my accomplishments more so they can motivate me to continue my work.

  •  Isn’t it terrible that we all look to see where we fail instead of celebrate where we’ve been. Well yes, my hips and tummy are too big and I sure do need to be more serious about diet and exercise – but you know what? you know how I got those rather roundy bits? I nurtured two gorgeous babies into life with my own body.

  • Wonderful article thank you. Couldn’t have arrived at a better moment to lift me up and back into the present moment. In Light.

  • Mariakirley

    Wonderful words of wisdom. Helped me calm down a frantic Monday. Thank you.

  • Thank you for this, Joanna. I’ve been having sputtering restarts for the last number of months [read:years] and, normally, I would feel an edge or sense of guilt about them. I’ve opted to take the time to think of how far I have come in the last few years.

    I am, in particular, a dabbler (or scanner) and tend to immerse myself in a multitude of subjects or projects in one span of time. I’ve decided to chill and focus on the one thing that means the most to me. That being ME. A year ago, five years ago, I was not in as good a position as I now am. Go back six years and I was in a dark corner with depression as my only companion.

    Last week I looked around, and within, and told myself “I have everything I need.” The “want” list is still there; it will shorten in time. Right now I lack nothing. I’ve decided to ride that one for a while. I will write, and I will finish a writing course I have begun. That has been my dream all along, doing what I love and not having to do it for a living. No pressure.

    You’ve given us a great list. I’ve been through a “terrible winter” and am taking the time to enjoy the spring. I will also make a list of my accomplishments. No medals or awards, just a quiet celebration of me. It’s taken a lot of time and incredible amount of endurance.

    Thanks again. This is reminiscent of Gloria Esteban’s “Coming Out of the Dark”.

    ~ Mark

  • Thanks Joanna for a great post. It is very important for us to give ourselves credit for what we have done. I am often reminded of the Charlie Brown cartoon where Lucy is holding the football and promising she won’t move it this time. Charlie Brown always winds up flat on his back because Lucy pulls the football away just as he kicks.

    If we keep moving the goal post just before we get there it makes it impossible to enjoy our progress, savor life and to continue moving forward.

    With aloha, Susan

  •  I’m glad it helped to improve your Monday!

  •  That’s fantastic!  It really is amazing how quick we are to dismiss our own progress when we aren’t conscious about doing otherwise.

  •  Exactly!  Celebrating our accomplishments is so much more motivating than beating ourselves up for not not having everything figured out.

  •  Yup!  And who’s to say that your hips and tummy are not exactly where they should be right now?  That doesn’t mean you can’t work to change them for the future, but right now they’ve done something pretty darn amazing in creating 2 new people!

  •  You are welcome!  I’m glad it was able to lift you back up. 🙂

  • Ho no. I see myself in you. I, too, didn’t know what my calling might be so I played it safe by getting a library degree. Although I was successful at school (I graduated with honors and topped the national licensure exam), I realized later that it just isn’t for me. I’m now on my quest towards finding my passion and I realized that if should move forward, I shouldn’t dwell in the past. I can only celebrate the success. 2 thumbs up for this post!

  • It’s so true!  How often we play Lucy to our own Charlie Browns…..

  •  Mark, I’m sorry to hear that you have been through your own “terrible winter,” but am glad that you are able to enjoy the spring at last!  Best of luck with your writing, and with any other scanner pursuits you may be involved with.  I, too, identify as a scanner, so I understand how that can make things even more complicated.  Enjoy the journey!

  • This reminds me of a conversation that I had the other day with a friend who mentioned that I’m constantly doing things to try to reach my goals and as I recall this conversation, to that, I replied “Really? I don’t think so…I think I need to work more!” — not even acknowledging any little thing that I’ve done since the last time we talked, which was a few months ago. 

    No matter what it is, I usually believe that it’s not enough and more can be done, better, faster and more efficiently. So, yes, my thoughts are consumed with what is left to do rather than what has already been done….unless it’s something that was done that I think should have been done differently…now that opens up a whole new topic for conversation, lol.

  • Rio75

    This is a great post, thanks!  How did you identify your true calling?  I have the feeling that something is wrong and I am on the wrong path.  But for the life of me I can’t figure out what the right path for me is.  Any help would be great -Rio

  • Moonlover62

    Bravo Joanna!
    I would be thrilled to have you as a life coach, and I need one about now. After many many years with the same organization, my position was recently eliminated; a relationship isn’t heading in the direction I had hoped for, and I find myself questioning where I am in life. I can well identify with those feelings of despondency you experienced. I will think about all of your excellent points. We do need to be our own cheerleader, don’t we?
    Happiness comes from within. I need to keep reminding myself…

  • Let me ask you this — do you feel more motivated to get things done when you are focusing on how much you still need to do, or when you acknowledge how much you have already done?  Good luck!

  •  Thanks!  And good luck with your quest to find your own passion.

  • YAY!  What a wonderful post, thank you so much!  I have been thinking a ton lately about how to celebrate where I am in the career area of my life, because I am not where I want to be yet (though I’ve made some huge improvements!) and it’s SO easy to focus on that.  You gave me such a great guide to finding joy in the present.  THANK YOU! 

  •  Honestly, my path to identifying my true calling was full of fits and starts, which I suspect is true for most people.  It’s largely a matter of learning to listen to your body (which can tell you when you are moving towards or away from your best life) and then playing a game of “hotter or colder.”  I write about that some on my blog,  Good luck, and let me know if you would like any support on the journey!

  •  Happiness absolutely comes from within!  It sounds like you are going through a lot of turmoil right now, what Martha Beck refers to as “Square 1” — the stage in which some aspect of our identity is stripped away and we are left in limbo.  It’s can be a frightening place to be, but very fertile.  It’s necessary to go through that period of uncertainty before you can build the fantastic new life that is waiting for you!  I’m at if you need any more personalized support.

  •  Congratulations on having made some huge improvements, and on recognizing that!  Best of luck on the rest of your journey. 🙂

  • Joanna, I love this! I can totally relate, and was just thinking about this the other day… Like you, I’m always focused on what I have to work on – and it’s sooo easy to do, because there’s *ALWAYS* something left on that to-do list! But you’re so’s important to look at how far we’ve come too. This time last year, I was unemployed and my blog was just a faint idea. One year later and it’s a reality! Maybe not where I want it to be, but I’ve definitely come so far. Thanks for reminding me to appreciate that!

  •  You are very welcome!  I’m glad to hear you’ve made such dramatic improvements — it’s amazing the difference a year makes when we take the time to look at it!

  • Beatriz Sosa-Prado

    I love it!! This post mean to much to me as I am going through my own journey. Sometimes I hear those voices telling me to do more, that what I have done is not enough. I need to take a step back and look at how far I’ve come. 

  •  I’m glad this came at a meaningful time for you!  Good luck in your journey, and remember to look back and acknowledge how much terrain you’ve already covered.

  • Thanks for this articulate reminder, Joanna.  So helpful.  You are right-on!!

  • Tinarose29

    amazing!!!! Just what I needed, only yesterday I was moaning about how my life is empty, but looking back I can now see that it is actually full and i still have room for more x

  • Good tips. Note no 5, 6 and 7 were excellent. Track the personal tip was just for me.

  • poisonoakie

    This could not have come at a better time, I have been feeling a bit stuck, scared and hopeless, but when I looked back and wrote down where I was at those different times, I cannot be thankful enough for where I am now, and from here life will only get better.

  • Talya Price

    We all feel stuck sometimes.

  • Kristen Riggs

    Joanna, thank you so much for this post! The biggest thing I took out of it was to celebrate the small steps! I myself am starting to come out of a depression stage. I find myself beating myself up over how great I used to be (before this slump I’m in). I stopped and wrote in my journal just now and wrote down/honored all the steps I made today which I normally wouldn’t even think of as steps because yes, the harsh critic voice comes in. But those are so important. Thank you for the reminder!