How ‘The Gap and the Gain’ Can Help You Feel More Positive and Empowered

Woman in transition reading book

Reading is one of my favorite ways to spend time.  I read lots of books about health and nutrition, which is a passion of mine outside of financial planning.  I also love light fiction – think Bridgerton.  And as a business owner and entrepreneur I also read my fair share of business-related books.  One such book that I read recently was “The Gap and the Gain” by Dan Sullivan.  While this book is aimed at helping goal-oriented business owners appreciate their success more, the lessons can apply more broadly and might be helpful for you as you navigate the transition from married woman to single.

The premise of the book is that high achievers don’t find happiness and feelings of success in their achievements because they are always looking forward to the next goal rather than appreciating how far they have already come.  And even worse, the “goal” is often a moving target, so when you get close to a goal, you move the goal posts further away and never feel like you get there.

Understanding the Gap

Let’s say you have a new goal, like losing twenty pounds or growing your business revenue twenty percent this year.  We have all be taught to make our goals SMART or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based.  As a first step then, you have to define some specific target that you can measure (weight lost or revenue gained).  This is where the problem starts.  What you now know is the distance between where you are now and where you want to go.  Sullivan calls this “The Gap”.  While it’s important to know where you are going, by focusing on how far away you are from the target, you can feel overwhelmed, unhappy and unsuccessful.

Similarly, if you are at the beginning of a life transition due to divorce or death of a spouse you likely have goals around what you need to do to rebuild your life.  Maybe you need to get your finances in order or buy a new house or shift your career to match your new circumstances.  Whatever the goal, it probably feels distant and difficult to achieve from where you are sitting today.

Anytime you are a long way from where you want to be, it can be emotionally challenging.  Whether your goals are related to growing a business or reorganizing your life after a major transition, the emotional impact is the same.  So how do you work around this?  Well according to Sullivan, you need to shift your focus from “The Gap” over to “The Gain.”

Appreciating the Gain

Since we now understand that “The Gap” is the distance between where you are now and your goal, the Sullivan defines “The Gain” as the distance between where you are now and where you started.  As human beings, we are hardwired to always be looking forward and discounting how far we have already come.

Sullivan’s premise is that in order to be happy and feel successful, you need to look not forward to where you are going but backward to where you started.  By acknowledging where you started and what you have achieved to date, you are more likely to feel happiness and contentment on your journey, rather than feeling as if you have failed to meet your goal (yet).

How does this work in practice?  Let’s look at an example.  Say the goal is to lose twenty pounds.  Every day you get up and weigh yourself.  Maybe you lost a pound or two, or maybe you gained a pound.  Whatever small change you see on the scale is good information, but when the progress is very small, or non-existent, it can be difficult to stay motivated to keep going because the goal seems so far away.

However, what if instead of focusing on the number on the scale every day, you were more focused on how far you have come with the positive changes that you are making in an effort to reach your ultimate goal?  For instance, you have started walking every morning and you haven’t had dessert in three weeks.  While the number on the scale might not be moving as much as you want, you have to admit that you are feeling more energized and healthier.  By focusing on the positive steps, you are already taking you will be more motivated to continue putting in the work, which will eventually lead you to where you want to go.

The Gap and the Gain in Real Life

I have started implementing this in both my business and my personal life.  I have a page on my computer called “The Gain” and I keep a running list of all of the achievements I have already made towards goals that I am currently working towards.  I am definitely one to minimize my achievements when others point them out.  Creating the first version of this list was an eye-opening experience when I could see concrete evidence of how far I have come since I started. 

As it relates to my business, I realized that starting my own business wasn’t something I just did last year.  It was actually six years in the making.  I went back and thought about every step I took that ultimately led to where I am now.  While I am not yet where I want to be with my business, looking at all I have already done definitely helped me shift my perspective.  Adding to this list as I achieve milestones brings a lot of satisfaction, and looking back over it when I am having a bad day quickly helps me to shift from negative into positive.

What Is Your Gain?

Whether you have goals around your health, your career, your relationships or any other aspect of your life, you might want to consider the gap and the gain.  Using this framework as a lens through which you view your progress can be very empowering.  No matter what your goal is, it won’t happen overnight.  If you focus only on how far you have to go to reach your ultimate goal, you will be frustrated and overwhelmed.  If, however, you can focus on the steps you have already taken and how far you have already come, you will feel more confident and empowered to continue to march forward.

If you are interested in learning about how I can help you take charge of your finances as a newly single woman, please contact me at  or schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

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