By Scott Westerman
“What’s measured improves” Peter F. Drucker
How do we know when we are doing a good job?
It hit my phone every morning at 7AM. “The Daily”, we called it. In it were the key metrics that told the team how our previous day’s work had impacted our progress. We all knew to zoom in on the numbers in red. Those were the fire-drills we would have to explain to my boss before 9, or the phone calls would start coming in. But more important was the accuracy of our forecasting. Where I worked, you could get in just as much trouble for over shooting your objective as you did for missing it.
That’s not to say that overachievement was bad. We were simply expected to anticipate it, communicate it ahead of time and take the appropriate action to maximize it’s impact.
There is a lot written about setting goals, but not much about how to measure your progress. Do a Google search for “goal quotes” and you’ll get dozens of hits. Search for “metrics quotes” and you’ll only find a half dozen.
“For me,” writes Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, “goals and daily metrics are the key to keeping me focused. If I don’t have access to the right stats, every day, it is so easy for me to move on mentally to the next thing. But if I have quick access to key metrics every day, my creativity stays within certain bounds–my ideas all center on how to achieve our goals.”
Measuring goals at work should be relatively easy. But I’m surprised how often it’s not. Here’s a test: If you’re in the run up to your annual performance review and you’re not sure how it will go, you don’t have a clear set of metrics.
The first step in personal growth is to figure out a direction. Living life with a purpose is the only true way to become rich. “Without a clearly defined purpose”, writes author David Niven in The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, “seven in ten individuals feel unsettled about their lives; with a purpose, almost seven in ten feel satisfied.”
If I’m in a conversation with someone about their future and there are too many “I don’t knows” coming at me, I fear that they are headed toward becoming what Zig Ziglar calls a “wandering generality”. The thing that too many of us don’t understand is that saying “I don’t know” usually means you’re in a holding pattern. In a world that is evolving at Internet speeds, a holding pattern is more likely back-sliding.
So put a stake in the ground. Think about the times when you have been happiest and make that desired reality your goal. If you experiential portfolio is light on positive experiences, one of your goals should be to open yourself to opportunities to experience new things and new people. Like anything else, our likelihood of finding what we seek is proportional to our ability to keep looking for it.
The amazing thing about vividly imagined goals is that you automatically start vectoring in their direction. This happens whether or not your thinking is positive or negative. One of my former Facebook friends posts often about how bad her life is. It’s not surprising that she is unhappy when you follow her timeline. I say “former” Facebook friend, because I’ve been pruning negativity from my social networks lately. There are enough energy sucking naysayers out there as it is, so I recommend avoiding them whenever you can.
And monitor your own social media output. If you were someone else, how would you assess your mood? The first rule of achievement is believing that you can. So when you’re engaging in self talk, watch your language.
We’ve learned that the best metrics are SMART:
As your long term objective comes into focus, you’ll want to begin charting the baby steps it will take to get there. Measure steps the SMART way.
And what about measuring happiness? I like to ask my friends to assess their “Happiness Quotient”. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at this moment? If you’re below a five, do something about it.
Clayton M. Christensen, writing for the Harvard Business Review Blog points to the great business psychologist, Frederick Herzberg, “who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements.”
Mike Rudin, purducer of the BBC program, “The Happiness Formula”, interviewed Professor Ed Diener on the subject of measuring happiness. Diener posits three ingredients in the Happiness Formula.
1) Family and friends
Does your life have meaning?
Do you have rewarding friendships?
Do you have a fulfilling relationship with a soul mate?
Do you earn enough for a comfortable existence?
2) Belief in something bigger than yourself
How do you see the world from a spiritual or philosophical point of view?
What causes and ethics do you believe in strongly enough to want to engage to make a difference?
3) A Plan
Build activities and objectives around the answers you gave to the six questions listed above. In addition being SMART, these goals should align with your values. They should also bring you joy. Goals that play to our strengths and are interesting to work on are more likely to be achieved.
And what about the dark side of the force? Loss of a loved one or loss of a job can have lasting effects. Pain in life is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
Keep happiness as your ultimate objetive. Never give up hope. In time, no matter how bad your current reality may be, if you can keep your eye on the prize and craft a series of activities to move in it’s direction, you will get to where you want to go.