An individual is fortunate if he makes even a modicum of psychological progress in his life. E.g., it is rare indeed for a dull, dim-witted individual develops a new level of mental vibrancy, or a weak individual takes to a modestly higher degree of psychological strength. The same holds true for our own limitations and propensities.
To help us measure our true progress, we can develop a scale that ranges from growth to development to evolution to transformation.
Most of us are fully capable of growing, in the sense that we are obtain to obtain more of what we already have. E.g. an individual, who has a house, builds an add-on facility in the back yard; or a sales person who had 20 individual boutiques as accounts, eventually acquires 40. That type of progress is horizontal, as it is more of the same thing. More knowledge, more money, more relations, more of what we already are capable of.
Development on the other hand is of a higher order. It is more of a vertical progress, where we are able to attain some quality of being, capacity, or level of achievement that we did not have before. E.g., the sales person who had 20 boutique accounts has developed a new ability that has enabled him to attract a chain of stores as clients, which is a new type of account. Perhaps he has acquired greater psychological toughness, or developed a new level of interpersonal skills that made this higher order achievement possible.
Most of us have made some progress along these lines, though not very often. Our attainments are mostly of more of what we already had, i.e. horizontal growth, instead of the movement to another plane as in vertical development.
There are also a few who don’t even have the aspiration for minimal progress at the same level. Such an attitude will often lead to regression in life.
Above development is an even greater form of progress. It is human evolution. When a weak person becomes a strong person, that is evolution. When an uneducated dolt becomes a well-read expert in a field, there is certainly evolution there. It is in essence a movement and progress to an entirely new plane of being.
When a wildly emotional person becomes a psychologically stable and reasonable individual, they move from the lower vital plane to a higher, mental one. It is an evolutionary movement. If that same person goes further and is able to maintain a constant level of calm and peace within, then that individual has even attained a modicum of spiritual evolution.
Finally, the greatest form of progress, even beyond evolution, is human transformation. It normally entails a radical change in our nature. It is not only an evolutionary movement from one plane to a higher plane of being, but the permanent settling there so that the radical change becomes second nature to us. It is virtually unheard of, yet remains a measure of ultimate progress in life. E.g., the once emotional, non-stable person has now progressed to become calm and serene in all aspects of his being, while serving as a beacon of inner peace for others in the world.
Whatever the level of change we seek -- progress, development, evolution, transformation -- the key will be the level of aspiration we bring to bear. If the change we seek is sincere and intense, we will rise up rapidly -- in terms of accomplishment, conscious awareness, and joy in being alive.