What exactly are you measuring?


How do you measure success?

Here is the third element in my success formula and I have termed it measure. I am going to encourage you to take great care when choosing what to measure and how you are measuring it on the road to your success.

This article is the fourth part in my success formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.

So, how do you measure your success?

Over the years, I have set a great many performance measures myself and I have been subject to many performance measures set for me by other people. Some have worked well but most, and I am almost embarrassed to report this, have failed miserably.

What is going on here? Am I some sort of uncontrollable maverick who plays by his own rules whilst giving no respect to authority? Probably the wrong hypothetical question to ask because that’s often what I am, and it might well explain why I now run my own business.

A better question might be, “Why did so few of the measures work as intended?”

Suppose you choose a success measure and inform everyone concerned that they are now working towards that measure. Whenever a measure is chosen it instantly becomes a focus point and most people begin to work toward achieving that measure. Great you say, because that is you wanted and expected to happen.

Suppose you are a business owner who wishes to minimise accidents within your organisation. You clearly place a limit on the acceptable number of accidents and you even invest in setting up a fancy new reporting and dashboarding system. If the accidents limit is breached, then the staff will all be penalised by a lowered year-end bonus. Great plan – save for the fact that the staff will now be less likely to mention accidents and far more likely to cover them up. The staff are working by the numbers and trying to achieve the good measures and protect their bonus. You believe your business is a very safe ship but if someone were to have an accident, or worse, which could not be hidden then the HSE inspector would probably disagree.

A more enlightened business would not punish accidents but rather seek to drastically reduce the chances of an accident. They might set a target for “near miss” or “potential for harm” reports. They might put a simple system in place which allows for both reporting and recommendations for improvement. They could build such a target into the bonus scheme. People would look to place reports whenever possible. Sure, you might get some frivolous or pointless ones, but you will also get some golden ones which could literally mean the difference between life and death for your staff and your business.

My point is, you must take great care to measure performance effectively. This applies equally to personal measures and the measures you set for others.

To negate something, our brains must think about the something then apply the negation to it. For example, if I set myself a target of zero biscuits my intention would be to eat no biscuits however I find myself immediately thinking about biscuits to tell myself not to eat them. Inevitably, I end up eating biscuits because I am thinking about them.

We humans tend to focus and even fixate on the measurement target whether it put in a positive context or a negative context. The classic illustration of this is to challenge someone not to think of a bright blue floating tree. Go ahead and try it yourself.

A better trick is to set myself a target of only eating healthy things. This forces me to think about healthy things and, whenever the subject of biscuits comes up, I can more easily ignore the biscuits and eat an apple instead.

Sometimes you might set too vague a measure. Intangibles like happiness, fortune, wealth, beauty, etc… are wonderful aims but how will you know when they are achieved? You need to be very specific about what you mean by beauty or wealth. What will have to happen for you to feel beautiful? What does wealth really mean to you? These are slippery definitions at best. For example, you could spend vast amounts of resource on plastic surgery and gym memberships only to find the external beauty you create is not the inner beauty you are after. For another example, you could spend your life endlessly chasing money in the belief that lots of money will make you wealthy when your true definition of wealth is having a happy family who love you and each other deeply.

So, what is your true measure of success? Is it a positive or negative measure? Perhaps you will have attained something or accumulated a desired amount of something? Is it wholly tangible or wholly intangible? Is it a mixture of both?

Take your time and choose your measure(s) wisely and you will hugely increase your prospects for gaining the success you seek.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. Keep an eye out for the rest of the series. Why not click on the “follow” button and subscribe to the blog to get a reminder?

Why not check out the other series posts?

Part 1 The Success Formula

Part 2 And Your Reason Is?

Part 3 What Are You Aiming At?

What are you aiming at?


If you have no clue where you are going it does not matter which road you take.

This article is the third part in my success formula series. Make sure you check out part one here if you have not already read it.

The second element in my formula is goal and I am going to encourage you to embrace the power of goal setting.

I can almost hear you screaming, “Oh no! Another article on goal setting? Enough already.”

Well, yes and no.

I’m not going to discuss how to set goals, but I will look at why goal setting is so critically important to achieving success in any endeavour and I will also briefly discuss two classes of goals and why it is good to know the difference between them.

When you set a goal, you are making a commitment, either to yourself or to the world at large. You are setting a clear intention to do or achieve something. You should set your goals with great care. How you set and handle your goals says a lot about your character, resilience and mental toughness. Some people set goals and fail repeatedly, yet carry on until they get their big win. Some people fail once or twice then give up entirely. Some people never try anything at all. Some people go all in for the big prize whilst others are in it for the long-haul. There are many variations. By the way, I will talk more about measuring success and failure and other key goal factors in other articles.

The key message I want to put across here is that, all other things being equal, forming a well-conceived and well-designed goal will give you a far better chance of success than not having a goal at all.

We humans are easily distracted creatures. We will wander off track.  Having a compelling goal gives us something to come back to when we wander, like scuba divers might use a safety line to guide them to a shipwreck then back up to the dive boat again. If we don’t have a goal we could end up anywhere. Some people are happy to drift through life like this but I’m not. I create goals for myself.

I firmly believe in and follow the tenet, “If you want to get ahead get a goal.”

There are two classes of goals I want to mention now, namely outcome goals and process goals.

Most large goals employ both classes at various times but, I believe it is important to know the difference between them and when to use each one most effectively.

Outcome goals are goals which have a defined result or target to be achieved, often within a clearly specified period. I am writing this on New Year’s Day, so it is apt because outcome goals are the ones we are all familiar with. We generally form our new year resolutions using outcome goals. They can be very powerful, but they can also carry within them the seeds of their own failure. With the very best of intentions, we all tend to set very lofty, large and distant goals, and this puts immediate pressure on us. For example, “I’m going to work out and lose 20kg in weight by the start of the summer holidays and I mean it this year, no excuses.” It has solid intention but there is no clear route to follow. As I mentioned, we humans are easily distracted. The first setback often becomes a terminal block and we feel down because we gave up. Better luck next year.

A process goal is a one where the goal is to complete certain activities or actions on a regular basis for a specified amount of time. There is no expected result as such but because you will follow a regular and repeated process you will gain your successes and results along the way. An example might be, “I am going to go to the gym and work out for an average of 3 times a week for the next 6 months.” There is flexibility here and options for catch-up if obstacles are encountered. There might be any number of outcomes, both positive and negative, through following this process and you will discover them as you work out for the 6 months. When the 6 months is up you can look back and compare your before and after status if you need an outcome assessment. Your focus will be on taking as much control as possible over the process itself and how you follow it rather than on a distant goal which you may or may not achieve.

It might look like I’m down on outcome goals. Not at all. They each have their merits when designed well and used appropriately. They each have drawbacks which need to be accounted for.

I won’t recommend a “this is the one you need” method because everyone is different. I tend to adopt process goals for my far-reaching plans as this promotes the formation of (usually) beneficial habits and long-term positive changes. For example, “I intend to go for at least one walk every day for the coming year.” I tend to use outcome goals for specific time-critical steps which need to be achieved to help facilitate the process goals. For example, “I will redesign my entire business calendar and course schedule by the end of the first week in January to enable 1 hour of walking time to be available every day.”

Experiment with both types. When you find a method which works for you, stick to it and thrive.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. Keep an eye out for the rest of the series. Why not click on the “follow” button and subscribe to the blog to get a reminder?

Why not check out the other series posts?

Part 1 The Success Formula

Part 2 And Your Reason Is?

Part 4 What Exactly Are You Measuring?