Progress is Almost Never Linear

Why understanding this can bring immense clarity and spare you from years of heartache

by Kris Ward

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A few months ago, a colleague of mine, Tad Hargrave, asked me to review the manuscript of a book he’d been working on entitled The Niching Spiral.

Which is genius.

It maps out a 7 step common sense approach to identifying one’s best niche – the narrow area of expertise that will be the most fun, profitable and worthwhile to hone in on business-wise.

I got a sense of the premise right as I read the opening quote by Hermann Hesse:

“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.”

The book goes on to debunk the myth that the act of finding one’s perfect niche can be approached in a linear way, as in:

You can go from Point A of “no niche” to Point B of “clearly pinpointed lifelong niche” in a straight line and in a short period of time.

That simply isn’t true. And…

Believing otherwise can set us up for a massive disappointment.

Tad poses the question and suggests:

“What if niching could be approached in a way that was gentler, more practical, and more sustainable?

Let’s consider the spiral as a shape and imagine that, in the center of the spiral, is your perfect niche. Most of us seem to need to circle our niche a few times before we see it clearly or before it reveals itself to us.”


Both Tad’s and my experience has been that––not only for our own business discovery journeys but for countless entrepreneurs with whom we’ve worked––the best we can do is pinpoint what we’re clear about internally, i.e. what we know we deeply desire to do work-wise, and who we’d like to work with. Then we can make some educated guesses about what will actually work in the marketplace.

But not until we take some baby steps forward and test our hypothesis, getting feedback in the real world, will we gain the information that we need in order to take the next step towards our truest and most-fitting niche.

And guess what?

Even after we’ve found our “perfect niche”, what’s to say we won’t (at least partially) outgrow it within the matter of a year… or even 6 months?

I mean, for me anyway, I often feel like I’m evolving and growing and changing so rapidly that, by the time I finish updating a program… or my website… or some other aspect of my teaching and branding – and the changes have actually gone LIVE (sometimes it takes a while for projects to go from delegated task to the completed result)…

It’s time to do it all over again!

When this happens, it can be easy to feel like we’re somehow off track or missing the mark.

Or like we’re right back where we started.

But we aren’t.

And that’s really what Tad is pointing to in his book. He says:

“We are back at almost the same place, but one step closer to the center [of our spiral].

I couldn’t agree more. Every time we experiment with another take on our brand / niche / area of genius / authentic conversation, we move another step closer to the core of what we’re seeking to know, master and express––about ourselves, the world, and the unique contribution we have to offer.

Which is why I often refer to the entrepreneurial journey as “Lucrative Self Realization”.

With each “loop” around the spiral, more is revealed.

We learn critical information about what works, and what doesn’t; what feels good, and what feels awful; what people do and don’t respond to.

We’re not chasing our tail, we’re spiraling inwards and upwards.

And really, we couldn’t get off our path if we tried.

That’s the nature of this crazy loving Universe in which we live.

Everything is right on track, even if we don’t think it is.

We’re evolving, even if we don’t think we are.

Learning about what doesn’t work, and what we DON’T WANT, is often the most spiritual and profound learning we can do.

And this spiral concept applies to all learning––and all attempts at making progress.

So whether we’re talking about finding our ideal niche… or our ideal partner… or the perfect solution to a problem we’re facing…

So long as we keep taking baby steps––conducting regular experiments to see if our hunches about what we think will move us forward are true or false; and so long as we keep paying attention and actually learning from all the experiments, we are indeed moving closer to our truth and the answers, relief and freedom we seek.

Remember that the next time you’re berating yourself for not being further ahead than you think you should be.





P.S. As for how to apply this spiral model to achieving any goal, here’s a training aid I recently created and shared with some of my students. I’ve taught the concept explained in the graphic for quite some time now––essentially: strategic, gentler and more effective goal setting through only focusing on your immediate “Point B” destination (versus your “Point Z”––which you can’t yet see from here anyway).

But it wasn’t until Tad shared his super cool “niching spiral” concept with me (thank you Tad!) that I began to superimpose my goal setting method onto a similar spiral shape. Only––this version is a SQUARE spiral. You’ll see why.

I hope Tad’s model (and my square, general goal-setting variation of it) helps you relax into and trust your own journey a little more; and grasp for perpetual certainty and insta-solutions a little LESS.

It’s so much more in sync with reality, and therefore harmonious, to approach things this way. And, counterintuitively:

It helps you get a LOT more accomplished in less time, and leaves you with more energy and clarity than a “Point Z” focus ever would.

{Click the image below to open it in a new window and expand to full size for easier reading.}



*For more info on Tad Hargrave and his work, click here.

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Kris Ward
Kris Ward is a Lifestyle Design Coach™ Trainer and the president and founder of She has helped to educate and inspire over 100,000 people worldwide out of painful conflict around money, self-sabotage, and inhibited self-expression into having the freedom and abundance to do what they love every day, and more

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