You’re Evaluating Progress Wrong and It’s Costing You

There’s a common saying that you shouldn’t compare apples to oranges. Why? Because when you are comparing two items that are inherently different, it’s impossible to recognize the differences that may actually be relevant and meaningful. 

This is especially true when evaluating your progress, which, when done correctly, is essentially comparing you to you – the you of yesterday to the you of today, or the you of 2021 to 2022. When evaluation is done incorrectly, however, a host of problems affect you not only on a day-to-day basis, but on a cumulative basis and your perception of what you accomplished during the year will be inaccurate.

This in turn, causes your confidence to take a hit – it feels to you like you are not doing enough, that you are failing or underperforming. (Although the opposite will happen to some of you as you get ahead of yourself and become overconfident.) More significantly, a faulty evaluation of progress causes a drop in motivation. You feel like all of your efforts are wasted, you’re working on the wrong things or missing something. You’re stuck and uncertain of what will get you on the right track.

All of this chaos is costing you. And fortunately, it has a straightforward solution. 


Making the Wrong Comparisons

Traders and poker players often default into a one-dimensional way of evaluating their performance. It’s good or it’s bad. They are not accounting for progress. Nor are they seeing the natural variation that defines their current ability. They’re either feeling it, and doing really well, or they’re in a slump and looking for a way out.

I commonly see clients being overly hard on themselves after having poor results mixed with poor performance. They are not only upset to be underperforming, it also feels like their hard work isn’t producing results. They immediately ask “How could I still make these mistakes?” and lament that they are not on their A-game anymore. 

Their first reaction should instead be to compare their C-game to a prior version of their C-game from 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, a year ago, or longer. Progress is not just a measure of how well you can sustain your A-game. It’s also measured by how well you are able to improve your C-game. That comparison is often missed, even with clients who have been working at this for years. It’s just not intuitive to think this way. You need to train it like anything else.

Ideally, you want to compare apples to apples – compare your current A-game to your previous A-game, your current B-game to your previous B-game, and your current C-game to previous C-game. That kind of comparison, A-to-A, B-to-B, C-to-C, provides you with a closer look at how much progress you have made.

If you’ve never done this before, you can get started simply by estimating how your current A, B, and C-game ranks vs. previous versions. Yes this isn’t ideal, but I’d rather you start somewhere. Or you can take it a step further and complete an A to C-game Analysis, which you can download here. Then you’ll have a measuring stick to rate day-to-day performance. And as you progress throughout the year, it gives you a reference point to evaluate progress over time. 


Mind the Gap

Another common error in recognizing progress is a false feeling that because the gap between your A-game and C-game has stayed the same, you’ve made no progress. That’s not necessarily true. It’s very possible that both your A and C-games have moved forward at a similar rate.

This shows up mostly when you feel like your C-game is still too weak relative to your A-game. When you’re on, you’re on, but when you’re off, you’re as off as you’ve ever been. Or so you think. This misperception happens because you’ve failed to see how your entire range has moved forward.

Remember how the Inchworm moves. Improvement comes from taking a step forward from the front (A-game gets better), followed by a step forward from the back (C-game sucks less). As you improve on both sides, the entire Inchworm moves forward. (If you need a refresher on Inchworm, check out the second half of my “The Cost of Perfectionism” blog). 

When your Inchworm moves forward, you have made progress, but the gap between your best and worst can stay a similar width. If you feel like that gap between your A-game and C-game is too wide, that may be a legitimate concern. But it’s a different problem to solve, not an indication that you haven’t made any progress.  


Determine Your Focus for 2023

Evaluating progress is critical so you can make the right next steps, and as we near the end of 2022, it’s a good time to reflect on your year. What kind of progress have you made? And if you didn’t make as much progress as expected, why not? Spending time on those types of questions and answers will inform your decisions for 2023.

For example, if your C-game has made major improvements and your range has narrowed, you may want the next year to focus more on consistent execution. 2023 might be about leveraging the work you have done without feeling like you have to make big strides. Instead, you’re fine tuning your performance day-to-day or week-to-week.

Or, you might be in the opposite situation. Perhaps you have worked really hard and your A-game has gotten better but your C-game hasn’t kept up. If your C-game is stuck, this is a sign that you haven’t found all the problems holding you back. Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes it’s really hard to get at all of the roots causing your mental game problems. This is the area where my clients often come back after a break looking for help again.

An example that often is hard for clients to find on their own happens when their A and B-games have moved up while their C-game has lagged behind. The tension between their frontend and backend is stretched like a rubber band and causes their issues to come up in bigger form, like larger blow-ups and messier situations. 

While that can be confusing, it can also make the underlying root easier to spot. Sometimes the underlying flaw is tied to a more personal issue, and it’s hard to see when you’re mired in the problem. Getting an objective, outside view can help you get unstuck. Occasionally, even just a couple sessions with a client can serve as a catalyst to help them figure out what’s really holding them back.

No matter where your A, B, and C-game are, the key is that understanding where the points of growth have and have not occurred can help you formulate where your focus ought to be. Plus, going forward, evaluating your progress in this way on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis, can help you find the weak spots in your process or skills sooner.

And as you’re evaluating your progress, don’t forget to look at the wins. As I wrote about at the end of 2021, acknowledging those wins is important for your confidence. Evaluate your progress correctly, celebrate the wins and keep at it. You’ve got this! 


Written by Jared Tendler

December 5, 2022

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