Like a soccer player, I am goal-oriented. I always have been. I set goals in all areas of my life. They challenge me. They motivate me. And they make it easy to track my big-picture progress.
However, I also recognize that my ultimate goals are really lag measures. They are results. Or outcomes. Or accumulated totals. And if all I ever did was focus on my lag measures, I would be unlikely to ever achieve them. Which would be laggravating
The secret to achieving your goals is to focus your attention on the lead measures.
The lead measures are the inputs that are likely to lead you to the results you want.
An Example We Can All Relate To
I have a big birthday coming up in May. So I set a goal of weighing 210 pounds by May 25th. I picked the number because it is what I consider to be my ideal weight, where I feel and look my best. For context, I weighed 215 lbs when I graduated from high school and 211 lbs when I graduated from college. But I have been as heavy as 224 lbs within the last 6 months.
But I don’t obsess over the number 210. And I am not dieting. Instead, I am focusing on the 2 lead measures that impact weight loss:
- Calories consumed
- Calories burned.
It’s that simple.
I weigh myself first thing every morning. That gives both a progress report and a baseline for the day. I write the number down every day to track progress over time. Because if I can measure it I can manage it. (Which I think was a quote from Stanley, the retractable tape measure guy.)
I eat every day. But I don’t eat beyond the just-full feeling. (Which is better than that not-so-fresh feeling.) This means I am eating what I need. But I’m not taking on excess food or calories. So my lead indicator is ‘Did I eat past just-full? If ‘no’, I have a positive meal experience, and I give myself a tally, Ali. I want to have 3 of those every day.
However, I also track my calorie burning. In fact, to improve my calorie-burning habit I bought cardio equipment for my home gym so that I can burn calories every day that I am home. Each day I track whether I burned calories through deliberate exercise of at least 30 minutes.
By focusing on my lead measures I am taking actions that are leading to predictable weight loss. Today I weigh 214 pounds. And I have 4 months to lose 4 pounds. Which is quite manageable. Or woman-ageable.
But Wait, There’s More!
On my quest for self-improvement and achievement, I track several other lead indicators:
- Hours of sleep at night: This is a great indicator of energy, mood, productivity and Zzzs caught.
- Books Read Per Month: This is my indicator of increased intelligence. I want to read at least 2 books per month. One of them can’t be a picture book.
- Hours spent writing per day. This is a great indicator of how many blog posts I will publish and pages I will write for my next book. If I write for 1–2 hours every day, my progress is steady and good. By doing so I can usually come up with one funny joke per day. (As judged by me, which is totally cheating.)
- Hours spent on business development per day. I am the Founder & CEO of the advertising and ideas agency The Weaponry. Which means that I am responsible for growing the business. The most important thing to know about business development is that you have to plant seeds in the spring if you want to harvest in the fall. So I track the time I spend planting. #WWJAD (What Would Johnny Appleseed Do?)
- Placing water on my vanity each night: Drinking water is a valuable part of my health plan. It helps with my mood, and alertness, and makes me feel full, which prevents overeating. I track whether or not I set a glass of water next to my sink each night. Because if I do that I drink water first thing in the morning.
- Dates with my wife per month. This year I want to have at least one date with my wife every month. It is an important investment in our relationship. You can’t just set the goal of having a happy marriage. You have to spend quality time together, talk, and focus on each other regularly to achieve the goal.
Set measurable goals. Then determine which lead indicators you can measure to track your effort toward achieving your goals. Your lead indicators are great predictors of success. Focus on the lead measures and they will lead you where you want to go.
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