1: Imagine a sheet of paper. At the top of the page is the word “Ideal.” At the bottom is the word “Start.” 

The word “Achieved” is in the middle of the page. Achieved is where we are now. It’s what we’ve accomplished since we started. 

When we measure our progress backward from where we started, we live in what Strategic Coach founder Dan Sullivan calls “the GAIN.”

Our tendency, however, is to measure where we are now against our ideal, writes Dan and Benjamin Hardy in The Gap and The Gain: The High Achiever’s Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success. 

When we do so, we are living in “the GAP,” 

“Ideals are like a horizon in the desert,” they write. “No matter how many steps we take forward, the horizon continues to move out of reach.” 

The psychological term for the ever-moving horizon is “hedonic adaptation.” However much progress we make, we tend to adapt quickly to our new circumstances. Which “leads to never being satisfied, and to constantly seeking the next thing,” the authors note.

“Hedonic adaptation is so powerful that no matter how big the change is—we marry our dream girl, double our income, or achieve all our goals–the thrill wears off, and we quickly revert to feeling ‘normal’ and unfulfilled again.

We’ve moved forward. But the horizon has moved with us.

Being in the GAP makes us unhappy.

 But that’s not all of it. The impact of GAP living is much more far-reaching.

 2: When we are in the GAP about someone else, all we see is where they are not measuring up. 

We see their shortcomings. Their flaws. 

What we don’t see? Their GAINS. Their growth.

“Take, for example, my oldest son,” Ben notes. “He’s an incredible young man. We first met him as a 7-year-old boy living in a group home. He’s been living with us ever since, and he’s one of my favorite people.”

“Every once in a while, he tries to weasel his way out of chores or schoolwork. This may be typical for a young child, but this has been a trigger for me, and when I see him doing it, I can get pretty frustrated with him.” 

“Why are you always trying to get out of stuff?!” Ben barks.

How does Ben’s son react when he’s treated this way? 

He shuts down emotionally. “He later told me it feels like I only see his faults,” Ben recalls.

“When I’m in the GAP about my son, I’m measuring him against where I wish he was as a person. I’m measuring his behavior against my ideals. By seeing my son through the lens of the GAP, all I can see are his flaws. I don’t see him for who he truly is, right now.” 

“I don’t see his growth,” Ben observes. “I don’t see his progress.”

Which has been immense. 

“When I measure him thoughtfully right now against where he was when we first met him,” Ben reflects, “it’s incredible how much progress he’s made. Not only intellectually, but emotionally, physically, and in all other ways. It’s actually crazy how much he’s grown and changed.”

When Ben is in the GAP regarding his son, “I become a tyrant and a bully [him], rather than his biggest fan and supporter.”

3: Which is why the GAP and the GAIN have made such an impact on Ben. 

This framework has become central to his life: “I’ve learned to focus on the GAINS. To vocalize those GAINS. To point them out to my son and to everyone around me.”

Deciding to focus on the GAINS in our lives transforms how we show up in the world.

“When I first learned The GAP and The GAIN,” Ben notes, “I immediately started using it and it changed my life. It changed how I approach my work, my team, and, most importantly, my family.”

That can be us.

More tomorrow.


Reflection: How do I typically measure my progress? Do I measure where I am against my ideal? Or backward from where I started?

Action: Share the GAP and the GAIN with someone I love and care about. 

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