Written by Courtney Lynch

More, more, more- it’s often the steady drumbeat mantra of successful professionals. Without realizing it, we can get stuck in a loop of striving without satisfaction. Enter Dan Sullivan’s powerful insight on measuring success from the gap or the gain. His genius work allows us to more clearly see our progress to ensure our efforts are rewarding.

When we’re measuring success from “the gap,” we’re focused on what we don’t have and intense ideals about where we should be in life. When we’re in the gap, we see our past as a problem. We see missed opportunities and second-guess our choices, thinking about what we should have done. Viewing our past as problematic doesn’t support creating a better future.

No matter how positive or idealistic we are, measuring ourselves against our perception of ideal is a losing battle. That’s because what we believe is ideal isn’t stable. It’s always changing based on where we’re presently at. Like some distant horizon, our ideal life always seems just a bit out of reach.

Instead of measuring yourself against gaps you perceive, I encourage you to shift to measuring your gains. When you look back at your old self with an eye for seeing how far you’ve come, you shift to a gain mindset. As Dan says, “The only way to measure the distance you’ve traveled is by measuring from where you are back to the point where you started, not from where you are toward the horizon.”

Part of the privilege of coaching leaders is seeing how often professionals make far more progress than it feels. And through coaching, I can support leaders in seeing gains. When you look back on your life with an eye for seeing wins, not only do you begin to notice how you’ve progressed, but also gain more from your past. You notice key accomplishments and the lessons learned from missteps or challenges. Appreciating your progress not only makes the now better it also fuels the confidence needed to keep stepping toward big goals.

Here are reflection questions that allow you to practice gain thinking:

  • How have you grown as a person over the past three years?
  • What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year?
  • What are 10 important things you’ve accomplished in the past 12 months?

Regularly referencing your progress also keeps you focused on your own unique journey in life. It prevents you from fully admiring the only partial view we get of others’ lives. It helps you check out of the comparison game and resist the blame bandwagon. Looking back to understand how you’ve grown, evolved, and succeeded is a best practice for leading forward wiser and better.

Founded in 2004, Lead Star is the company behind New York Times best-sellers SPARKLeading from the Front, and Bet on You. Lead Star supports professionals to reach new levels of success through its innovative coaching programs.