The Ills of Progress: Embrace the Process instead (Lessons from Nature)

We are taught to value progress. The question to ask is: What does one sacrifice in the pursuit of progress?

All progress involves sacrifices of some kind, in terms of time, effort, energy. The investment in a committed course of action is not to be a randomly made decision.

On one hand, progress could be a perpetually dissatisfactory and an endless pursuit, where results – or the lack thereof – return empty of value. Here, despite ‘progress’, one feels empty, unfulfilled. This is especially the case when one is blurred by certain ideals (of society) and knows not what one truly wants.

Source: Unsplash

On the other hand, progress could entail working on a long-term project that is extremely valuable to the individual, community etc. This does not mean there are no problems to this pursuit.

For one, we live in a technological era dominated by capitalism, the lure of the material and high speed internet.

It promises instant results, and plays on our psychological wiring for the pleasurable as our brains become increasingly sensitive to dopamine spikes.

We become attached to results. We are easily discouraged by the lack of results, as we look around and see the glitter of the world around us.


Social media becomes the lens of comparison to reinforce that we are too slow, inadequate and not quite ‘there’.

Unfortunately, the technological era creates a hyper-masculine culture that drains the value of patience out of us. Clouded by the unlimited potential that technology hints at, we fail to draw lessons from the intelligence of nature. Yet, nature acts as bedrock that continually reminds us that all good things of value takes time.


It seems as if the duality between technology and nature has been widened, where speed eliminates patience, doing forsakes being, control leaves no room for surrender, and reaching for the skies negates the necessary process of going down into the Earth.

A classic example is the growth of a tree. Its appearance might look sturdy and strong with outstretched branches providing shade for those who could use some shelter.

However, this does not happen without a process hidden from the eye; the tree first grows deep roots into the nourishing Earth to establish a necessary foundation, so that it could sustain life and thrive. When that happens, it is almost without question that the tree thrives, growing to become sturdy and tall.


This suggests that not only is time needed for growth, but also space, space that is necessarily honoured, protected, and unseen by others in order for the individual to ‘grow roots’. Unlike the masculine intent of progress, this is a process characterised by feminine qualities of rest, being, nurturance, surrender and silence, so that the mysterious unfolding of renewal could take place.

Without ‘growing roots’, we eventually become drained out and emptied of value. Without the feminine, the masculine becomes imbalanced and overworked.

Progress is not an illusory pleasurable thrill ride; it involves a process of ups and down. The lack of patience to honour the downs creates suffering, temporary short cuts and eventually halts progress.

What if we could withdraw meaning from the neurotic drive for results, and instead redefine the process to be primarily meaningful?

This shift in perspective not only allows us to become patient, but replaces ungratefulness and dishonour with appreciation and respect with what life has to offer. It becomes a celebration, since both the ups and downs are embraced. The journey becomes more immensely rewarding.


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