It is extremely important to measure your success. It sounds obvious, but otherwise, you won’t know whether or not you have actually succeeded. That brings up the following point: you need to make sure you specify what success looks like before you even start. Otherwise, you could be wasting your effort going off on rabbit trails doing things that are unrelated to achieving your goal. You need to define what success looks like — what the metric is for success, and therefore, how you know when you’ve met it.
Here’s an example. If you say that you want to get stronger, that’s a good thing to aspire to. However, it’s not a very well defined metric of success. It’s not a good goal because you can’t quantify it. You can probably get stronger, but how do you know when you have succeeded in that endeavor? You should attach some metric to it, something like “I want to be able to do 50 more pushups than I can do today,” or some absolute number such as 100 pushups in one go. A metric like that is completely measurable — you can do a set of pushups and you’ll know exactly where you stand in reference to your goal. You’ll know if you’re halfway there, three quarters of the way there, or if you think you’ll reach it tomorrow.
Another reason to define and measure your goals is because it reinforces the idea to yourself that you are serious. You are determined to accomplish that goal. If you are not measuring your progress, you’re giving your subconscious the signal that maybe this isn’t as important as I pretend it is. Here’s another way to look at it. If you were given a task at work, it will be measured (if not by you, then by your superiors). The same should be true of your own personal goals and accomplishments. Why not treat yourself with the same importance as you treat your job? Why not take your personal goals seriously like you do with your work goals?
By giving a goal more attention (simply by measuring it), you’re more likely to complete it. It’s consistent feedback that motivates you to keep pressing forward. It’s one thing to check in every once in awhile, or try it for a couple days and then forget (which kills your momentum). It’s another thing entirely if you make a habit of checking your progress every day. Then you’ll know if you’ve been sliding and need to pick up the pace, if you need to start a new approach, or whatever the case may be. By measuring, you can easily see where you are in the process.
Let’s try to think of another example. We talked about gaining strength; another example could be losing weight. Don’t just say, “I want to lose weight.” That’s great, a lot of people want to lose weight. But if you want to actually make it happen, assign a number and a deadline to it. Your new goal might be, “I want to lose 10 pounds by February 31st.” Pick something reasonable that could be accomplished. This way, not only can you extrapolate where you need to be on each day in between now and the deadline, it’s much more motivating (and less overwhelming) when you have a specific concrete task to accomplish.
Another example would be training for a marathon. If you know that you have to run 26.2 miles on September 9th of this year — don’t you think that’s more motivating to make a schedule to get out there and run 5 days a week in order to be prepared for that race? It’s much different than saying “I want to be able to run 26 miles,” which is better than saying “I want to get better at running.” Here’s the progression starting with a bad example: “I want to become a runner.” Slightly better example: “I want to run 26 miles.” Even better example: “I want to run 26 miles on September 9th in the Disneyland Marathon.” The point is to assign both something concrete to measure against, and a deadline. This will help measure your progress and will drastically increase your likelihood of accomplishing that goal. It also really helps with accountability, which is a huge part of accomplishing goals.
Here’s another example: making more money. That’s a nice sentiment, but a mediocre goal. We can improve that by saying “I want to increase my annual income by $10,000 this year.” That’s much more specific, and much more attainable because you have a fixed number attached to it. Now you can break it down and say “okay, I need to improve by $834 per month.” Knowing that allows you to answer the question of what is needed to reach the incremental goal. Does that mean selling X amount more inventory, does that mean taking on a certain additional number of gigs, does it mean getting another contract… Whatever it may be, this way you know what needs to be done. Because if you just said “I want to make more money this year,” that’s great, and you might even start something and probably not follow through. That’s just the way it is. We get distracted and lose excitement when the results aren’t immediate. It goes back to the difference between an ideal and a vision — a vision has a meaningful “why” attached to it.
It’s also much easier to attack a smaller incremental goal than it is to look at some big looming challenge that seems overwhelming. You’re much more likely to make progress if you can take the little things one at a time. By having these metrics for success, it’s easy to break it up into smaller chunks, like we’ve seen with the examples above. I can do 2 more pushups a day — that’s an easy task. If you told me I had to just suddenly do 100 pushups today, and I’ve been doing 10, I’m not going to even bother trying. But if I know I just need to add one today for the month and then I’ll be at my goal, you can bet I’ll be doing those push-ups — and you can bet I’m going to reach that goal.