This article is written for Evolving Beings by guest author Eduard Ezeanu of People Skills Decoded.

There is a big fascination in this century with change. There are tons of messages around us telling us how change is a constant and we must learn to embrace it. Although there is some truth in them, I believe these messages are quite misleading.

They are misleading because they put so much emphasis on change that they often make change in itself seem like a good thing. So people end up thinking that if they change this is intrinsically positive, taking real pride just in the fact they’ve changed. I believe that practically speaking, this is not true.

Progress is the Good Thing

Change can happen in all directions. It can be positive, negative or neutral. Progress instead is the kind of change which is positive. This is why progress is always good and it is the real thing to aim for.

Of course, being able to change is important because progress is a form of change. This is why mastering change is important. But its value is not intrinsic. The fact that you have changed is only a good thing because it reflects that you are able to change, which means you are also able to progress.

Recognizing Progress

The challenge many of us face is distinguishing progress from other forms of change. We are complex beings, living in a complex system. This makes figuring out what is actually good for us much harder than meets the eye.

You could say that making more money is progress. But what if you spend that money drinking heavily? You could say that making new friends is progress. But what if you’re not really compatible and don’t enjoy spending time with them?

Because of scenarios like these, I think it’s fundamental for us to learn how to properly recognize real progress from apparent progress. In order to do this, there are 3 things we need to look at:

  1. The emotional change.

    If a change in our lives makes us feel better, makes us experience overall more positive emotions and less negative ones, then it is progress. Our overall happiness is an essential quantifier of progress, as we all aim in the end to live happier lives.

  2. The survival value.

    As living organism, we are programmed to try and survive. Even our most evolved needs like the needs for meaning and self-actualization, have derived from our basic need to stay alive. Whatever makes it easier for us to survive and distances us from risks to our lives is progress.

  3. The ecology of the change.

    A certain change can sometimes help us and make our lives better, but also have a negative impact on the larger systems we are part of. The bad news is that this negative impact eventually ends up influencing us and long-term, that positive change can end up being negative. This is why only a change which is ecological, which also improves the systems we’re in, is progress.

Interestingly enough, identifying real progress and distinguishing it from simple change requires quite a lot of wisdom. Things are often not what they seem and we need to think them through, to look at the bigger picture and to listen to our feelings in order to discover what progress is.

And once we discover what kind of change is real progress for us, we need a lot of action and even more persistence to make it a part of our lives. At the end of the day, progress is the defining trait of an already evolved being.

About the Author

Eduard Ezeanu is a communication coach with an attitude-based approach. He helps others to improve people skills they find relevant and get top notch results. He also writes on his blog, People Skills Decoded.