Many of us complain about how useless we believe the majority of our required curriculum was during our schooling years. Whether you were bad at English or bad at Science or bad at Math, we all had a subject or two that we thought was a waste of time (mostly because we were poor at the subject, but that’s a different story for a different time).
Now, I’m not here to argue the structure of education or importance of one subject verses another. That could take up a book in-and-of itself. I am here to talk about how one subject, math, taught us a very important practice that we failed to see. And, although we may not need to be able to perform statistical analysis on a regular basis or figure out the missing angle of an obtuse triangle, understanding certain numbers in our lives can have a huge and lasting impact. An impact so big that, once you start to keep track, you wonder why you haven’t been doing it all along.
But, before we really get into the meat of what our metrics should be, let’s back up and talk a bit about the importance of measurement itself.
Measurement has always been part of my life in one way or another. Whether I was measuring my 100 meter time against someone else’s, or measuring my squat weight this week verse my squat weight last week, I have had some form of metric to follow and track for the majority of my life.
And if I look at what part of my life in which I’ve achieved the most success, it makes total sense. Did you see the two examples I gave above as metrics? 100 meter time and squat weight. That’s because, the majority of my life has been spent measuring some form of physical, nutritional or biomechanical metric. I’ve tracked my speed on the track and my tackles per game and my weights in the weight room and my reps per exercise and my bodyweight and my body fat and my macro-nutrient portions…and on and on and on. And up until recently, my health and vitality have been absolutely on point.
Now, I say up until recently only to prove a point. By all means, my life has not fallen apart and I’m not all of the sudden an out-of-shape, 32 year-old couch potato. I have only lost ground on the level of health and vitality I used to have (more on this point later). So what happened? Why did I all of the sudden grow from being in astronomical shape to just being in good shape? I stopped measuring. I stopped measuring my weights and reps and bodyweight and body fat and so on (understand, you don’t have to measure all of these aspects in order to get healthy. These are simply the things I measured). Not because it is less important to me to be as healthy as I can be. Because I opened a business and suddenly had other metrics I needed to start managing (still working on getting all of this balanced out…I’ll keep you updated).
Being in the fitness world, and especially having TF for the last 3 years, has taught me a lot. One of the most important things that it’s taught me, which would have saved me a tremendous amount of pain and heartache in the past, is that there is only one person or business or family or team that we should constantly measure ourselves against…and that’s yours.
When a reporter asked Michael Jordan why he’s so much better than everybody else, his answer was not as flashy as you might expect it to be. As most would expect him to talk about all the fancy moves he’s worked on or the thousands of shots he’s taken (these were certainly factors, of course), the response Jordan gave related to the metric that he followed. He told the reporter (in relative terms), “Everyone is competing and measuring against who I am. I’m constantly competing and measuring against who I know I can be”.
Constantly measuring yourself against the performance of others around only serves one purpose, and that’s distraction. Yes, it is important to peep your head up every once and while and take a look around. You certainly don’t want to be on the completely wrong track, after all. The majority of your time should be spent comparing your current metric against your past metric (to figure out what you can do better) and your future metrics (to figure out what progress you’ve made so far).
I can’t tell you the number of people I talk to on a regular basis that have tried 25 different exercise programs and 54 different diets. With the amount of information out there, it’s no surprise that we have trouble deciding what can work and what can’t.
One common theme that I see from person to person is lack of measurement OVER TIME. Many people will track their weight for a week or so. And when they stop making progress, they give up and move on to the next fad. The truth is, most diets or cleanses or exercises programs work. Actually, I would argue that all of them work. But the majority of them only work for about 6 weeks. This is typically the time where people give up and move on (in which time the same company has invented another groundbreaking cleanse for you to try).
So the first suggestion that I would have is, for any measurement you choose, measure it for at least 6 weeks, 12 weeks, preferably. This is the minimum amount of time it takes for your body (or marketing plan, or game strategy) to truly start showing the results you are getting from your actions.
And, speaking of actions, let’s look at a few key points on actually picking the metrics that you want to keep track of. This can be attributed to health or business or athletics or any other aspect of your life. Remember, if it isn’t measured, it isn’t managed:
When I ask a potential Pack member what their goal is, the answer that I get a lot is “I want to lose weight”. Now, if I were a lesser person, that would be music to my ears. If I can get you to lose 1 pound, then you’ve lost weight, right? And now I can say that I’ve helped you achieve your goal.
Saying that you want to lose weight is a statement, not a metric. Be specific with how much you want to lose. Don’t say “I want to lose about 10 pounds” or “I want to lose around 10 pounds”. Again, this gives you an out. If you get to 5 pounds, you can round up and your brain says “we’ve achieved our goal, time to give up!”. Be exact!
Another hurdle people generally run into is trying to change too much at once. When you’re trying to keep track of your carb intake and your protein intake and fat intake and your vegetable intake and your water intake and your bodyweight and your body fat and your meal timing, it can get overwhelming (and demoralizing sometimes).
Pick your top 3 metrics and stick with those. Your top 3 metrics meaning, what are the 3 things that are going to give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to understanding and tracking them.
Each metric that you’re going to keep track of has a process attached to it. If you’re wanting to eat 3 ounces of protein at each meal, there’s a process behind doing that. Pay attention to the process that. If it’s not helping you achieve the metric you’re shooting for, the process needs to be adjusted, simple as that.
Pick your metrics wisely, as you’ll start to see a huge change in whatever area of your life that you decide to start making progress in. Whatever you do, don’t over think it, don’t worry yourself about it, just do it (no, I did not get Nike’s permission to use that saying). Remember, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.