9 Signs You’re Making Progress + Why Celebrating Small Wins is Essential

Small wins lead to big victories.

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

Feeling frustrated with your progress toward a goal? Or just feeling stagnant? It might be time to take inventory and check in with different areas of your life. Feeling adrift, aimless, or lost on the path toward a project or benchmark can be physically and emotionally crippling (it’s not a fun place to be!), but we can help you snap out of it and refocus. 

For starters, you’re probably doing better than you think; it’s just a matter of reframing. Yes, seriously. Allow us to explain… 

Often, the things that feel like baby steps are actually more important than the monumental leaps we’ve built up in our heads. Incremental changes take more work — mental, physical, and otherwise — than many of us truly anticipate. Change is hard! And no matter how much we know that to be true, remembering it in our day-to-day lives proves to be a feat all its own. I say this as a certified health and nutrition coach (literally credentialed to help people reach their health goals!) with the knowledge and education to ‘know better’ … It just goes to show you, all of us need progress check-ins now and then, no matter our expertise!

Remember, there are many ways to measure progress, and your one vision or definition of success (though important and valid!) maaaay be a bit myopic. This is true both if you have a specific, quantifiable objective (lose X pounds by X date) or if you have a vague, general goal (‘be healthier and work out more’). With the former, you may not have achieved the one singular item on your list, and with the latter, you have no specific thing to measure. Ironically, both of these things on either end of the spectrum can leave you feeling like you’ve made no progress whatsoever. And that feeling… well, we’ve already said. It’s pretty terrible. 

Ready to refocus? Let’s set some new benchmarks for our ‘goal progress inventory,’ shall we? 

RELATED: 5 Ways to Tell if You’re on Track With Your Goals

How Are You Measuring Progress?

There are a lot of ways you can document and track progress — written, visual, digitally, or with an outside source (like a doctor, therapist, physical therapist, or coach). Depending on what types of goals you’ve set for yourself, you can use different methods. 

Track it: Journal, Habit Tracker 

Journaling doesn’t have to be diary entries! You can use a journal to list out your goals (whatever they may be), how you want to feel, what habits you want to put into practice, etc. This is always nice to reflect on months and years later; how much of your ‘dream list’ have you achieved? What things that have become normalized in your day-to-day life were once big dreams of yours? 

Habit trackers are another great way to monitor your progress. Think about how much water you’re drinking, steps you’re taking, whether or not you applied sunscreen, if you did your daily meditation, what days you worked out… and then you can ‘audit’ and see how you’ve been doing over the past months. 

You can always look back at your FitOn app to see which days you worked out or meditated, for how long, and reflect on how hard you’ve been working. 

Picture it: Photo Log

This method doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have a physique-centric goal, photos can be powerful (and a way better marker than a number on the scale!). You may be surprised at how your muscle tone has developed… These things can be so incremental they’re barely noticeable on a daily basis! But looking back, you can see how far you’ve come (and give yourself a pat on the back).

Review it: Medical Check-Ins

Not all progress is visible to the naked eye… nor trackable to the everyday person. Sometimes you need an outside perspective with some specific metrics to see how you’re doing, and certain markers can only be measured by a medical professional. Maybe your goal was ‘take better care of your skin’ — your dermatologist can give you an objective progress report and see if your SPF habits are up to snuff. Similarly, you can’t measure your blood serum to see if you’ve improved your micronutrient intake, so this is where a good ole doctor’s appointment comes in. 

What Are We Looking For?

There are so many metrics to look at when it comes to tracking your goals and your personal development progress. This is because there are so many facets of health and wellness, and so many definitions of ‘success.’ So what are some things you can check in with right now? Inventory time! (And remember, this isn’t even a comprehensive list!)

9 Signs You’re Making Progress 

#1 Habit Shifts

How have your habits changed? What shifts have you seen in your day-to-day life? Do you walk more now than you did a couple of years ago? Did you pick up a yoga or meditation habit? Are you on a daily probiotic routine, or did you take up facial massage to help your TMJ? It could be worth it to just track your daily routine for a week or so, so you can see how far you’ve come. 

#2 Mood improvements

Your emotional and mental health are perhaps the biggest part of this whole healthy living equation. So, how are you feeling? Even if you’re not elated or enlightened, you may be in a better mental health place than you were last year. Take note. Reflect on your journals. Talk to your loved ones. This is a big one, you guys!

#3 Sleep Improvements

Think about quality, quantity, and how refreshed you feel… how are you doing? Were you in this place a few weeks or a few months ago? What about this time last year? Check your sleep logs or apps, if you have ‘em!

#4 Energy Levels

Do you feel a little more pep in your step or gusto when you wake up? This could be the result of better habits and improved routines… Your exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress management all contribute to your energy levels.

#5 Sickness Frequency

When was the last time you were under the weather? Think about the past year… how many times did you have a cold, flu, or some other bug? Now compare that to years past. Have you made progress?

#6 Workout Stamina

This is another incremental change that is hard to see in your day-to-day but worth evaluating nonetheless! Is there a workout routine that you do now that you’ve been doing for a while? Perhaps you were wheezing through it two years ago, and now it’s a breeze? Don’t forget your day one… that version of you would be SO proud of where you are now.

#7 Weightlifting Improvements

A more quantifiable measurement is how heavy you’re lifting! If you struggled with five-pound dumbbells years ago, and now you’re working with 30-pounders, that’s huge! Even if you’ve moved from five to seven pounds, give yourself a massive pat on the back (metaphorically or literally). 

#8 Pain Reduction

If you had chronic pain and stiffness, is that improving now? If you’ve made changes to your diet or movement in order to target pain, try keeping a log of pain levels. It’s easier to notice when you’re in pain versus when you aren’t, so doing a conscious check-in is important here. 

#9 Bloodwork Changes

If your doctor had you monitoring vitamin D levels, cholesterol, or blood glucose, and you’ve been working toward eating healthier and adding in mindful movement to your routine, it could be time to get a progress report from your doctor. This isn’t something you can easily check at home, so working with your provider can help you feel like you’re still tracking toward those health goals.

Celebrate it

Now you’ve taken inventory… How’d you do? Where are you at? 

I’m certain that somewhere, across the numerous categories upon which you can measure your successes (even the smallest changes), there’s something noteworthy. Now it’s time to celebrate. 

Celebrate your small successes. If you got off the couch today, for the first time in weeks, and moved for five minutes, CELEBRATE IT. If you are lifting seven-pound weights instead of five-pounders today, tell someone about it. Write it down, take a picture, spend a few minutes really celebrating and honoring that progress. While it may feel silly to you at first, this celebration is paramount to your continued success and progress.