There are only three choices

“If you’re trying to succeed in a job or a relationship or at a task, you’re either moving forward, falling behind, or standing still. There are only three choices.”

These are the wise words of Seth Godin.

While it is painfully obvious that these are the only three choices, it is anything but obvious when we are actually evaluating which of these three states we are currently in with respect to what we are doing.

It is very easy to create an illusion of moving forward by engaging in busywork — checking email, responding to notifications on Slack, etc. Just because we are doing things that take up our time doesn’t mean we are moving forward.

This is the reason I’m such a big fan of tracking metrics and living by OKRs (John Doerr’s Measure What Matters is a fascinating book on this subject). When we identify clearly how we will measure progress towards something and begin to measure it regularly, we can then unambiguously answer whether we are moving forward or standing still or falling behind.

The immediate consequence of identifying which of the three states we are in correctly is that we will then be prompted to take action. If we are moving forward, we might want to speed things up. If we are standing still, we might want to try a different approach and if we are falling behind, we might want to stop and rethink what we are doing and how we are approaching it.

There are only three choices. Only three states. The onus is on us to identify where we are and to act accordingly.

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