Traps of Progress


Knowing you’re on the right path to growth and doing it with health is very important, but equally so is being aware of the common traps or pitfalls that can keep you from moving forward. These I like to call the traps of progress.  They are nice enough packed in 4 C’s

Comparison- Competition- Comfort - Complacency

My guess is you have found yourself in one of these four traps and likely are in one or at least dipping a toe or two into one of them now. These are things we all have to be aware of so we don’t succumb to their seduction and remain trapped and live a life that is mediocre at best.

We could dive into many parts of each of these.  From recognizing when you’re in the trap and what it looks like in your life, why we get there, how to get out, and how to make the time in the trap shorter.   The most crucial of all of them is identifying when our behaviors begin to align with these traps. To get out of any of them will be challenging, but you can never get out of a trap you don’t recognize you’re in.  That is the power of deception and these traps are skilled deceivers.

How do you know you are trapped?  

  1. Comparison-  You are never satisfied with doing better than you have done before, but would rather look to see the performance of others and see if you exceed or trail behind them. Self improvement and progress is a far second to winning against your neighbor or friend.  Comparison isn’t fully bad, when it is used as a learning tool of what others have done or are doing successfully, but when it becomes our measuring stick we are in trouble. The best way I like to put it is you can’t judge yourself against another because it would be like trying to score a rugby game with swimming rules.  They are incomparable and completely different, just like you are built uniquely from the person to your right or your left.

  2. Competition-  You know this is bad when it all comes about you winning.  You will do anything to be on top. You will be willing to compromise values, bend or even break rules.  Unhealthy competition is when you see victory and good as a finite resource. One person’s success means another’s failure.  The truth is life actually has enough space and is robust enough for everyone to shine in their own unique way. Now don’t get me wrong, I love healthy competition as it draws out the best in each of us.  But when you enter into competition and can’t loose with grace or having it impact your identity you’ve fallen prey to the trap of competition. Here your pride will have a hay day because everything you do will be tied to adding or subtracting from your value. You will quickly lose sight of the impact and influence you have on others.  This is a very lonely place to be. Trust me I think this is the trap I lived in for far too long during my competitive swimming days.

  3. Comfort- This trap is likely one of the most deceptive because we usually end up in a place of comfort after a season of victory and breakthrough.  Unhealthy comfort is when we stop seeing the need to grow, to take ground, to innovate and to progress forward. Like competition is about us proving our value, comfort is about us protecting our feelings.  The focus has one direction and facet OURSELVES. This is a dangerous place to be because it isn’t a bad place to be. It often comes after a victory is earned. But good is not always great when there is a specific assignment and calling on your life.  To get by comfortably, without adding value to those you are built to serve is a shell of a life. This trap can be one of the most challenging to get out of because to the outside world it would seem reckless to step out and get uncomfortable when it isn’t required by circumstance.  Becoming someone who is committed to live a big life, wants to have a healthy feud with comfort. It is the lid on creativity and innovation. This is where I personally am most challenged at this time. So if this is you, you’re not alone!

  4. Complacency-  This one can seem very similar to Comfort, but trust me they are two distinct traps.  Complacency comes from compromise and a settling. It is letting go of what once drove you to keep moving forward and progressing  because you’ve grown familiar with it. We like the devils we know better than the unknown (good or bad). At least we know what we are going to get.  The unknown can stir up fear and insecurity that makes the prison we are in seem more appealing that the potential of the palace we could move into. Complacency is one of those traps that requires a deep heart check. Where competition and comparison can be more external, complacency is one that requires brutal honesty with yourself.  That is why this trap can be so hard to step out of. It requires both discomfort and humility to own the complacency you’ve participated in. It also takes vulnerability to allow others to speak into your life for this trap is first seen from the outside and seldom seen first from you.

These descriptions really have only scratched the surface on these traps.  I think because I’ve made homes of each of that at some stage I could share a lot.  My hope is in reading these you begin to do a heart check on each of those 4 traps on a regular basis. It is all to easy to fall into one of these traps and no sooner have you gotten out of that one that you find yourself in the next.  

Life isn’t about avoiding these traps completely.  Remember we are about progress over perfection. In fact, it is important to know what trap you’re in so you know what the required response is.  It’s more so the progress doesn’t stop completely and less about never falling into the traps. The more we learn in the journey the faster our escape is out of each trap.  

To close out, my question turns to you.  What one of these four is the hardest for you to climb out of? What do you need to do to help navigate out of this trap more efficiently?  Who can you go to to support you and learn from in how to tackle this obstacle?

Praying that as you face these traps head on you recognize the power and authority you carry.  You are not a victim or loser because you fall prey to these. You are human. There is no shame in facing these, but health and growth are found in our response.  You’re built to win!