Are You Secretly Ignoring Your Achievements and Causing Unhappiness?
If you look at your feet when you climb a mountain, you never realize how far you have come until you are done.
Each step feels as difficult—perhaps even more difficult—than the last.
If you never look at the broader context of your journey, you might assume that you have made no progress whatsoever. You might think that you are backsliding, when in actuality you have been incredibly successful.
Achieving Your Goals Is Like Hiking A Mountain
We do the same thing with our personal, mental, psychological, and spiritual development. There always seems to be another skill to learn or part of ourselves to work on, so we forget to celebrate our successes. We focus on what still needs to be done and sometimes altogether ignore the amazing things we have already accomplished.
This can lead to extreme and unnecessary suffering. It makes sense—people are often afraid that if they admit their accomplishments and celebrate what they have done well, then they will not have any motivation to keep going.
In my experience, that fear is unfounded. It actually hides the most elegant expression of the motivation to continue to grow, which underlies the fear. By admitting the fear and letting it go, by acknowledging the gains you have already made, you unleash a powerful energy that carries you closer to your goal.
Plus, there is the benefit of enjoying the different views at each step of the journey.
The Journey and the Destination
If all you ever do is climb, you miss some amazing vistas. You miss the joy of action for action’s sake, as Krishna so eloquently teaches Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita. Just like the act of hiking up to a peak is as enjoyable as reaching the top—in fact it makes the top that much sweeter—our everyday struggles can be enjoyed for what they are in the moment.
In hiking, it is obvious how to enjoy the process and see how far you have come. You get to appreciate the the play of light shifting through a million shades of green and flashes of red as birds flit through the trees, the smell of soil and sound of burbling water, the feel of your muscles tensing and releasing as you move. You would almost have to consciously choose not to enjoy it.
You stop to rest and when there are breaks in the trees you marvel at how small the other people look on the trail below, how tiny the houses are, how silent it is away from the hum of traffic. At each stop, the ground get smaller and your view gets bigger, so it is obvious that you are progressing.
In life, our progress it is not so obvious, and the journey not as immediately enjoyable. You have to consciously choose times to reflect on yourself, and you have to consciously choose to enjoy the contracting and releasing of emotions and fortunes.
I encourage all of us to do this more regularly. There are six simple ways we can build this kind of self-reflection into our everyday lives.
Except for puberty, we usually do not observe the process of aging in ourselves, since we see the change happen gradually every time we look in the mirror. It only becomes obvious when we look back at photographs of our younger selves how different we are.
Old journal entries are like psychological-emotional photographs of our old selves. If you think you have stagnated or regressed in a particular area of your life, I challenge you to prove it to yourself by finding a journal entry, at least a year old, where you exhibited an equal or more mature perspective and reaction than the one you currently hold. This does occasionally happen, but it is more rare than you realize.
2. Find External Feedback Mechanisms
Simply put, if you were to run everyday and never look at the clock, you would never know if you got faster. And if you start complaining that you are getting slower, I would tell you to go get some proof.
It can be useful to find external measurements to our internal desires. For example, if you want to be less stressed this year, monitor your blood pressure and heart rate before, during, and after you make a change in your life.
3. Set Goals
Goal setting is, among many things, a way of setting up external measurements for internal processes and growth. As you find external feedback mechanisms you can determine specific, measurable goals, and track them in your journal. That way you cannot lie to yourself.
The hindsight bias is a psychological phenomenon where we feel more certain of an event’s outcome after it happens. For example, before a football game we are 55% certain that team A is going to win, and when they do win, we recreate our memory so that we were 95% certain. Writing down our goals gives us a snapshot into our previous uncertainty so we do not overestimate our previous confidence and unfairly judge our current selves.
4. Ask for Explicit Feedback
Even with our best intentions, we are often as blind to our own strengths as we are to our weaknesses. Social feedback is crucial to knowing how far we have come—especially if we share our goals and ask for help in maintaining them. 
Just as important, a celebration is generally more fun when people are there to share it with us. When you ask for feedback—which is its own artform—you can also ask your friends to remind you to party when you succeed.
5. Look for Small Successes
One reason we forget to see how far we have come is that we are too focused on the end goal. But if all you focus on is the peak, you can easily have a miserable ten hours of hiking for thirty minutes at the top.
Instead, look for small successes and engage in small celebrations.
6. Embrace Failures
While this article has a rosy tone, everyone is going to fail, over and over again. Failure is a really great way of getting feedback, and ignoring it is a good way to insure that the same mistakes will be made over and over again. Look for the intelligence and wisdom in your failures and let them motivate you to continue.
You might also use a failure to remember to stop and enjoy the view.