Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Scale or a Tape Measure?

The other day I was glancing on the kitchen table and I saw one of my wife’s magazines. On the cover it had someone who was obviously struggling with her weight (that’s a nice way of saying she was fat!). The headline on the cover said, “Scale or Tape Measure”.

I knew instantly what the article was about. See, I’m another one that “struggles with his weight”. I’m fat, too! :-) I’ve been through enough weight loss programs with my wife that I understood the issue immediately.

It was this: Do you track your progress by measuring your weight on a scale, or by measuring the inches of your waistline with a tape measure? There are various reasons why one might be preferable to the other. They say that measuring inches is a more accurate way of determining your success. If you’re getting healthy by working out, you might actually gain weight because muscle weighs more than fat.

But then, weight is a more predominant gauge for your health. Are you “overweight” is much more common that “what’s your pantsize?”

But Wait.

What does that have to do with business?

Well, see, in business you have to set goals. And, if you’re going to be effective in following through on those goals, they need to be measurable. If I were to say, for example, that I wanted to set a goal to be happier, that would be a bit difficult to measure. How do you gauge happiness? How could I tell if I achieved the goal? Can I measure the width of my smile? Could I see that I yell at my kids and my wife less?

In the financial realm, I could say that I want to be filthy stinking rich. But just how filthy and stinking do I want to be? One million? Two?

So, the point is that the goal needs to be spelled out in terms that can be measured. What kind of terms would they need to be? Well, that depends a lot on what motivates you, and what you’re trying to measure.

A lot of people want to make a lot of money when they start their business, but they don’t really know how much or even why. So, when someone asks them about their goals, they often just throw out some astronomical figure of “a million bucks” or whatever comes to mind.

Stop for a minute. Ask yourself why you’re doing this. What do you imagine your life will be like when you complete this goal? Are you busy and stressed? Or are you relaxed and at peace? Are you traveling the world? Or staying put in a great home? Are you just accumulating money? Probably not. Amassing wealth is not nearly as fulfilling as using it. As you answer these questions, you’ll start to get a vision of why you’re doing what your doing. Then you can study that and measure the right thing.

For example, if I’m trying to document my fitness, would it make much sense to measure my hat size? Or even to measure someone else’s waistline? Measure and track things that are relevant to your goals.

Use a measuring system that motivates you, and works. For example, I once worked with a student that set, as his business goal, to make enough money to take his family on a particular vacation. He spelled out where they would go and what they would do. That focused his efforts, and drove his vision. Some random number of dollars wouldn’t have that power.

Stay consistent in your measuring systems, too. Changing midway through is likely to hinder your understanding of your progress. OK, I’ve lost this many pounds, but my waistline is now this. It doesn’t make sense.

Make sure that your measuring systems guide you toward a larger goal, too. Having seen the power of the mailing list, I’ve set a goal to increase my music site’s email list to a certain number by the end of 2005. Now, having a great list isn’t going to increase my money any. Having and using a great list will. But before I can use it to the fullest, I have to gather that list. So, I’m focusing on that goal, and then I’ll focus more and more on using it effectively.

So, should you use a scale or a tape measure. It doesn’t matter. Just keep measuring and keep it consistent, and you’ll be able to see your progress toward your goal!

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