I often hear clients talking about ‘progress’. But progress against what exactly? It’s human to want to feel a sense of progress as we go through life. Perhaps it provides a sense of ‘a life well-lived’, that our existence has meaning and that we are ‘doing well’.


What if, however, we are measuring ourselves against the wrong benchmark? What if we spend all that time and effort trying to be the highest earner or trying to be promoted? Some people invest a great deal of time, effort, and energy into getting a promotion to a job that they know isn’t really for them. For some, it is trying to achieve others’ opinions that you are ‘a great mum’.


Are we simultaneously ignoring some part of ourselves, our potential, that never sees the light of day? Are we too busy, marking ourselves against other benchmarks, to recognise what really matters to us?


The above happened to a client of mine. Her benchmarks were set by her work, other mums at the school gates (on the days she could be there) and by reading social media. Her overriding feeling was of never being ‘good enough’. Together we explored what she had seen as her real potential in earlier years. Joy, progress and a sense of fulfilling her potential came through her creative, artistic skills. That outlet had been closed down due to the pressures of modern, family life. What opened up during our sessions was how she could create a new benchmark for herself.


Progress would now be measured against her own potential. She had precious little spare time, but a couple of hours a week saw her creating handmade gift cards and getting a few local shops involved. She found the creative progress against her own potential to be worth more than the actual pounds coming in. What she had done was to divert her focus from some of the often-unachievable benchmarks set by others, to one that she had created for herself, and now there was a real joy in progress against it.


The learning I took away was to consider where we all could set a ‘benchmark against potential’ rather than to simply accept benchmarks set by others for us. I believe there is where will re-discover some of the joys we once felt. What a super reunion it is when you feel them again!


This article has been written by Cathy Sansom, a qualified coach and counsellor, Careering into Motherhood Partner Coach.