You’ll Rise or Fall With Your Metric of Success
Pretend for a moment that you’re a fish. Not just any fish, but a fish that’s motivated, ambitious, and driven to succeed.
Now imagine that you believed that I had the answer to how you would feed that ambition and become successful.
“To become successful,” I’d say, “you must climb to the top of that tree over there.”
So you set off, motivated enough to figure out a way to climb that tree. You try several times, but get nowhere close. You begin questioning your abilities, but grit your teeth and endure the struggle. I watch from afar, clearly seeing that you are ambitious. You and I both know how bad you want this for yourself and for others.
You keep trying, but after hours, you’re still exactly where you started. Soon, you begin doubting that success is even a possibility.
“Am I not good enough?” you’d wonder, “Is this even worth the amount of effort I’m putting in?”
Eventually, you’d give up. Your ambitious spirit would be crushed by the lack of any measurable progress. Sadly, you are resigned to live the rest of your life life believing that you aren’t destined to be successful.
All because you couldn’t climb that tree. All because a fish couldn’t do something that a fish isn’t supposed to be able to do in the first place.
Now, ignore the silly metaphor. Of course fish can’t climb trees, but this illustrates an important point about achieving your greatest desires.
The metric you use to determine if you are on the path to success with your goals is just as important as the action you’re taking each day to reach those goals.
No matter the goal, most of us can come up with a shortlist of things that make up the price one must pay to be successful.
To become something that most others aren’t, you must act in a way others don’t.
To have things others don’t, you must be willing to do things others won’t.
The path to success is paved with sacrifice, a willingness to persevere, and an unbreakable mindset.
But standing above all of those attributes, the path to success is paved with consistency. If it isn’t sustainable, it’s not worth your time and energy, because inconsistency is the mother of mediocre results. If you’re only willing to dip your toes in the water, you can’t expect to make a big splash.
One of the keys to making sure your path is sustainable and conducive to consistency is to audit your metric of success.
Your metric of success determines whether or not you’re moving in the right direction. When you go to determine if what you’re doing is working or not, your metric of success takes all of the action you’ve taken and makes it subject to inspection.
All of that time you’ve spent in the gym or office. All of the meal preps, phone calls, and hours spent studying. Each and every bit of personal development, “aha” moment, and bit of evidence to suggest something you’ve intuitively figured out along the journey to that point:
I’m a different person than when I started. I’m more capable than at any point in my life. And best of all, I’m closer to reaching my goal than ever before.
If you’ve applied the right metric, those beliefs will be validated, and you’ll be motivated to continue all of your hard work. But if you’ve applied too narrow of a metric, you’ll begin to question if what you’re doing is worth it.
The more specific your metric is, the more narrow it becomes. Generally speaking, if you set it too high or be too specific, eventually it will become an undesirable target. In all likelihood, you will give up.
Here are some examples of narrow metrics.
- 100% proficiency or a “perfect” score.
- Not doing it right on the first try.
- Forcing yourself to perform at your best at all times, with little room for error.
Think about it: what happens if something unexpected at work happens, and you miss a workout that week? For some, that’s no big deal. But if your metric of success is perfect-or-bust, it’s going to weigh on you more than it needs to.
It isn’t because you didn’t do it right. It’s because your metric of success is telling you that you didn’t do it right.
This is one of the reasons people give up on exercising, eating well, starting a business, or upgrading any area of their life altogether. They set the bar too high and don’t take lifestyle factors and their own desires about what this goal should mean for them that failure becomes imminent.
When failure is apparent, hope disappears. We question our capabilities, and that’s painful. As human beings, we are wired to avoid pain whenever possible. And as a result of our metric, we associate so much pain with the endeavor that we run away from something that could’ve been positive for our lives, and never look back.
So what does a good metric of success or failure look like? There are many variations, but here are two definitions to try on:
Success- the ongoing process of one’s personal striving to become more.
Failure- the act of outright quitting on the path to your goals.
Think about it. With this definition of success, your metric:
- Exists inside of your control at all times.
- Can easily be referenced as you go throughout your day.
- Cannot be easily manipulated or distorted by one situation or another.
And with this definition of failure,
- You only fail if you give up completely.
- The possibility of getting started again is always one decision away.
- Taking a day off or having something unexpected happen won’t derail you from making progress weeks at a time.
Both definitions are broad in nature, set you up to be consistent, and allow you to be a human from time to time.
For example, what if, for the first time in your life, you ate junk food 7 days into your new diet or eating plan?
But what if, for the first time in your life, you also didn’t beat yourself up for it?
What if you acknowledged what you did, realized it was because you didn’t have enough healthy food stored in the fridge from your last meal prep, and then went home and meal prepped with this error in mind so that the same thing wouldn’t happen again next week?
By your definition of success, you have become more than you were before. You’ve achieved a personal best. If you’ve beaten yourself up all your life for not being perfect, the first time you ever don’t do that is a celebration in and of itself.
And because your metric of success allows you to be consistent and see some progress, you’ve taken even more action towards the goal that you’re chasing after.
If you’re struggling to achieve your goals, audit your metrics of success and failure. See if you’ve put yourself in a spot where a fish has to climb a tree to be successful, and if you have, change it.