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Disc Golf

I was fortunate enough to work with most of my close friends when I lived in Charlotte, which meant we had the same schedule. So, on our collective day off, we ventured to a park for a round of disc golf.

If you take accuracy and distance out of the equation, I've got a pretty good throw. On the second "hole," there was a lone tree situated right in the middle of an otherwise open space. Unconcerned by the obstacle, I wound up like the amateur I was and let the disc fly.

With all that open space to work with, my disc managed to nail that lone tree dead center and bounce back towards me. By the time the disc settled among the leaves, I had made about three feet of progress. My friends and I had a good laugh at my pathetic throw and joked that at least it was something. It was, after all, three feet closer to the target than it had been.

For the rest of the afternoon, we would celebrate even the smallest of advances.

"You're making progress!"

"You're closer than you were!"

"Keep moving forward!"

As we approached the ninth and final hole, I noticed that my throw was getting better. Not a lot better – I managed to send my disc flying down a hill, nearly landing it in the road below. But it was better. It was steadier. It flew farther. I was making progress.

For some reason, that got me thinking about the difference between progress and motion. Motion implies movement but omits any sense of direction. In fact, you can make motion and never actually go in any direction. Progress, on the other hand, is forward motion. It is movement towards a target.

That got me thinking about my day-to-day. I make a lot of motion. I’m always busy doing things. But motion – movement – does not imply progress.

I’d rather move three feet in the right direction than thirty in the wrong direction.

C.S Lewis captured my thought process far more articulately than I ever could.

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be and if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. We have all seen this when we do arithmetic. When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.” (C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity)

He’s right. Movement does not equal progress. Often the most progressive movement I can make is to change course – to turn around entirely.

Celebrate the “baby steps” but make sure they’re steps in the right direction.

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