Achieving your goals is not easy. It’s even often frustrating.
Typically the process goes something like this:
- You set a specific goal
- You get pumped up and start working on it
- You meet the first difficulties
- You try to persevere
- You get demotivated and end up giving up
The biggest difficulty in pursuing a goal is not so much setting the goal. We all know that our goals must be specific. We have all heard, seen or read it somewhere.
What is difficult is what comes after, once the goal is set.
- When you encounter the first obstacles.
- When the initial motivation gives way to frustration.
- When you are disappointed with your results.
- When we don’t move as fast as we would like.
It’s at these moments that you need to know what to do or you’ll end up giving up.
Fortunately, there is a method that allows you to not only define your goals effectively but also to persevere when things get difficult.
The method to reach your goals
When we read books or articles on “how to achieve our goals”, we are usually told that to succeed, we must define specific goals and that we must visualize them regularly to maintain our motivation.
This is true. We must indeed have specific goals and we must maintain our motivation if we want to succeed. However, this is not enough.
We must also make sure that the actions we take every day and the efforts we make bring us effectively closer to our goals.
So how can we make sure that we are moving towards our goals as efficiently as possible?
For this method to work, you just have to follow these 3 steps:
Step 1: Set specific goals
Step 2: Define lag measures to achieve your goals
Step 3: Define lead measures to reach our lag measures
Let’s look at each step in detail.
Step 1: Set specific goals
As you probably already know, when we set a goal, we need to make sure it is specific. The more specific a goal is, the more effectively we can direct our efforts and actions to achieve it.
One of the most popular methods of setting specific goals is the SMART method. This method consists of making our goals Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, Timely.
Here is what these terms refer to:
- Specific: Our goals should be clear, precise, and unambiguous. A non-specific goal would be, for example, “I want to improve my Spanish. What do we mean by improve? Does it mean increasing your vocabulary? To speak more fluently? Here we can see that there is a multitude of possible interpretations. This is often a sign that our objective is not specific.
- Measurable: Our objectives must be quantifiable or qualifiable. We need to associate a value, a number, a level… something to determine whether or not we are getting closer to our goals. “Learning more Spanish vocabulary, for example, is not a measurable goal. After how many words will we consider that we have reached our goal? We can’t know because the goal is not measurable.
- Ambitious: Our goals must be ambitious, they must inspire us and make us dream. They must be worthwhile, otherwise we will have trouble finding the energy and motivation to work on them.
- Realistic: If we want to achieve our goals, we must be convinced that we have a reasonable chance of reaching them. If we take an unrealistic goal, we won’t really believe in our ability to accomplish it and we won’t give 100%.
- Temporal: A goal that is not temporal is a goal on which we procrastinate. It is crucial to set a deadline to create a sense of urgency and force ourselves to work.
Here are some examples of SMART goals:
- “By the end of the year I will be able to have at least a 15-minute conversation in Spanish.”
- “I will increase my profit by 35% next month because of product Y.”
- “I will spend 4 hours less on my computer per week starting tomorrow.” Another important point to keep in mind when setting goals is not to have too many. When we pursue too many goals, we slow down our progress. It’s better to focus on 3 – 4 goals to invest our time and effort more effectively.
Step 2: Define lag measures to reach your goals
Once we have defined our SMART goals, we must define lag measures.
Lag measures are metrics that allow us to measure our progress towards our goals. They are usually the things we are most concerned about:
Our turnover, our profit, the number of visitors to our site, the number of contracts signed, the number of kilos lost… are lag measures.
Lag measures give us information about our past performance. These are things over which we have no power.
For example, when we look at the income we generated this month, the number we see written down is the result of the efforts we made during the month. It is a reflection of the past and there is nothing we can do to influence this number.
Here are some examples of lag measures:
- For the objective “I will increase my profit by 35% next month thanks to product Y” the lag measures can be: your profit, the number of contracts you sign
- For the objective “We will divide by 3 the number of accidents on the construction site by September” the lag measures can be the number of accidents that occur.
- For the objective “I will multiply by 5 my professional appointments by the end of the year” the lag measure can be professional appointments.
Step 3: Define lead measures to reach our lag measures
Lag measures indicate whether you have reached your goal, lead measures indicate your probability of reaching it.
Lead measures are the things that you can control directly. They are all the actions we take to reach our goals.
If for example our goal is to increase our turnover by 35% by the end of the year, our lead measures can be the number of prospects we contact by email or the number of customers we call to sell our products.
These are all things that we can directly influence and that predict the success we will have.
To achieve our goals, we must constantly optimize our lead measures because they are what produce our results.
We often tend to focus on our objectives when in fact we should be focusing on our lead measures.
Instead of focusing on the volume of traffic to our site, we should focus on the quality of the articles we write and on the ways to distribute them to the right targets.
Instead of constantly looking at the amount of revenue we generate, we should be looking for innovative ways to get new leads and working on how we approach them.
Instead of looking at the scale to see if you’ve lost weight, you should focus on the number of miles you run, the number of reps you do at the gym and the number of healthy meals you prepare.
Because if we keep optimizing our lead measures, our lag measures and goals will follow.
How to reach your goals: the concrete example
Let’s take a concrete example to better understand how the method works.
At the beginning of the year I wanted to lose weight, so I followed each step.
Step 1: Set specific goals:
I set my SMART goal: “Within 3 months I will lose 10 pounds.”
Step 2: Define lag measures to achieve my goals.
I determined that my lag measure would be my weight.
Step 3: Define lead measures
For the lag measures I decided to choose :
- the number of kilometers I ran
- my average speed
- the number of low carbohydrate meals prepared
After following these 3 steps, I only focused on what I had 100% control over: my lead measures.
Not once did I not weigh myself. In fact, I didn’t even have a scale.
Every day I tried to optimize my lead measures by 1%.
In the beginning I started running without any equipment. I only had my keys in my pocket that kept moving when I was running, not very pleasant…
So I decided to buy a sports armband to put my phone and my keys in, it was already more comfortable to run (+1% improvement).
The next session I created a motivating playlist for running (+1% improvement)
Then I downloaded the Runtastic app to track distance, speed, route… (+1% improvement)
Every week I added 500 m more to my route (+1% improvement)
One weekend I researched all the low-carb dishes I could make quickly. I listed these dishes in my Evernote for easy reference (+1% improvement)
I optimized my cupboards and fridge to highlight all the low carb foods. For example, instead of putting fruits and vegetables in the fridge where they are usually forgotten, I put them upstairs so that they would be obvious to me when I opened my fridge (+1% improvement)
Every day I found new ways to improve my performance and my diet. I was constantly giving myself new challenges to motivate myself. And because I was constantly optimizing my lead measures, I automatically lost weight.
At the end of the 3 months, I ended up buying a scale to know exactly how much I had lost. Result? 7kg less. I had exceeded my goal.
If I had followed traditional advice, I probably would have failed.
From the beginning I would have bought a scale to weigh myself regularly. Every week I would have gotten on it and naturally I would have noticed that my progress was slow. After a while I would have been frustrated and probably would have given up.
The advantage of the system I explained in this article is that it keeps you motivated.
Every day when I got up, there was no question of getting on a scale and miraculously hoping that I had lost 5kg. Every day I was looking for ways to optimize the process to reach my goal.
And I turned it into a game. I continually gave myself mini-challenges.
- “What can I do better today?”
- “Can I run faster?”
- “Can I run longer?”
- “What new low-carb dish can I find?”
And each mini-victory pushed me to keep going and challenging myself. Kind of like a game where you unlock bonuses and medals as you go along.
And that’s the real secret.
To achieve a goal, you don’t have to focus on the goal itself. You have to fall in love with the process of getting there.
You have to enjoy pursuing your goals. We need to challenge ourselves a little more every day and get mini-victories. We need to focus on metrics that we can control directly. And we will achieve our goals without even realizing it.
To conclude, the best way to reach our goals is to constantly optimize our lead measures.
The objectives are important and they must be specific, but once we know them, we must focus all our energy and time on the process of reaching them. Because if we constantly focus on the process and optimize our lead measures, not only will our goals be reached, but they will often be exceeded.