Why Progress Is A Spiral (+ MIP Progress Report 2012-2013)

Why Progress Is A Spiral (+ MIP Progress Report 2012-2013)

This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress).After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, my physical well-being, my romantic relationships, and my writing career. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one, we inevitably have to improve the other.

As I turn 28, and it’s time to renew my Man In Progress pledge, I look back at these past three years and I can see that so much progress has been made.

At first, I was disappointed that my progress didn’t look like a straight line–a steady upward climb toward my imagined, perfect self. I was wrong about what I thought progress should look like, and just accepted the fact that progress followed a circular trajectory, and that really, there was no such thing as “perfect progress.”

But, today, I realize that I was wrong in both cases:

Progress is neither linear, nor is it circular, but it is, in fact, a spiral.

Because if we were examine where we’ve been, and where we plan on going, the place we’ve been has already become fossilized, and the place we plan on going remains just a wisp of smoke in our mind. 

We want to believe that we are either always “failing” or always “winning,” but neither seems to be the case. It’s probably something in the middle: we are “moving forward” but “in place.”

When we make progress in our lives, we simultaneously leap for the light of who we want to be, while eyeing the shadow of who we once were. We tip forward at times to get closer to the light, but we never quite attain it; we “tip back,” under the gravity of our shadow, but we are never quite completely engulfed in its darkness.

We straddle both our past and our future, both our light and our shadow, both the people we want to be and the people we fear we might become.

We visit old patterns, yes, but we never quite visit the exact same patterns: they are always a little “further out” than before.

We move forward, yes, but we never quite “break out” of our old cycles. Those old cycles stay with us, like old friends, always there to challenge us, and to see if we remain stalwart in our new convictions, or if we cripple underneath the pressure of our old beliefs–or from our lack of faith.

The Spiral As It Pertains To The Age We Are Currently Living In

The fact that progress is a spiral explains what appears to be both a great expansion of freedom in our times and a great increase of oppression in our times–both happening simultaneously. It explains both a new spiritual vacuum and a new spiritual enlightenment being birthed side by side, like fraternal twins. It explains both the “deep slumber” and the “grand awakening” happening at the exact same time. It explains both the disturbing silence of submission (and immobility) coupled with the deafening roar of change and transformation. This explains the height of hope and courage wrestling with the peak of despair and pettiness. This explains the presence of artificial absurdity engaging with the most disarming displays of raw reality.

Ours is a disorienting world.

As each of us lives during these times, we must acknowledge that our progress becomes the progress of this age.

At first, we may be disoriented like the rest of them, but if we see our progress through the lens of a spiral, then maybe we can find some ground to stand on. If we can understand that our world moves on this spiral, and that we, too, are tracing this spiral as one single atom in the whole of humanity, we may be able to find better stamina. We may be able to find some balance, some peace, and yes, some harmony in all the tumult that seems to be going both forward and backward at the same time.

Why Progress Is A Spiral

Progress is a spiral because that is the only way in which we can come to know that there is always more in the sky to see, and always more in the ground to uncover. We revisit our past, yes, but never quite our past–it’s always a past that’s a bit “further out.” We touch upon our future, yes, but it’s never quite the future we imagined–it’s always a future that’s a bit more “deeper in” than we thought it would be.

This past Saturday I turned 28.

But at 28 I still feel like I touch upon 25 and 18 and 2. Then, there are days when I feel like I brush up against 30 and 41 and 52.

I am both the man I was and the man I one day wish to be, but not quite either still.

It’s hard to explain but I feel like I have finally landed on a fundamental truth: learning that progress unfolds in a spiral really makes me feel at peace with the work I’ve done so far to improve myself. I’m able to both be proud of all the success I’ve had and be humbled by all the work that still needs to be done. I strongly believe that this new understanding of how progress works keeps me from resorting to self-loathing whenever I fail, or self-aggrandizement whenever I win.

Because I now realize that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to re-create the man I once was, nor will I ever really pro-create the man I want to become–but I will always remain a man in progress: a man constantly having to go backward for every time he has to go forward, yes, but always reaching a place that is both wider and deeper. A place that’s something like the past, but a little further out. Something like the future, but a little deeper in.

much love,


MIP (Man In Progress) Progress Report 2012-2013

Name: Ollin

Year: 2012-2013

Age During Progress: 27

Area(s) of Focus: Physical Health, Romantic Relationships, and Writing Career

Classes and Lessons Learned:

Interdisciplinary (Health/Relationships/Career)

How To Act

Romance 101 (Relationships)

Writers and Their Love Stories Part I

Writers and Their Love Stories Part II

Advanced English (Writing Career)

Writers and Their Money

P.E. (Physical Health)

9 Things I Learned After Becoming A Vegetarian Writer

To read the entire MIP series from its inception, please visit the MIP page.

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Categories: Writer's Journal