When you set goals it is essential to have clear criteria and measurements for the progress as well as for the end result. Not only is this important for setting goals, this basically defines your goal.
How can you make progress and how do you measure it?
When You Compare Yourself With Others
There are people – not you of course – who always and solely compare themselves with their peers. If the neighbor gets a nice new car they need to get a car that is just a little bit nicer.
Comparing yourself with and measuring against your peers is part of human nature and competition is not necessarily a bad thing. It can result in motivation and progress, for example in sports or business. So, what is the problem? The problem is the “always and solely”. People tend to compare themselves with certain peers only – those of higher status or higher wealth. We rarely see a person with an older car and then appreciate what we have.
Comparing yourself with people of higher status or wealth might end up in a spiral where you always want more and more. But, if getting more only leads to wanting more you will never get happy and you will never reach your goal.
Compare With Your Past Self
Comparing yourself with other people might also be very misleading. If you only see the shiny lives of others on Facebook or Instagram this is a very filtered view and chances are, these people have problems same as everybody else.
What is a better approach? When you set goals the progress and the end result should be measurable. And, you need to define the criteria upfront. How do you know you have achieved your goal?
When you compare yourself with your past self, you can see your progress. You are in control.
Tiny vs. Big Steps
Imagine 100 days. This is quite a good time period for reaching smaller goals or accomplishing a milestone of a bigger goal.
When it comes to making progress, would you rather make a 2x progress within the 100 days or a 1% progress every day?
Let’s do the math.
When you make 2x progress the result obviously is 2x.
When you make 1% progress every day the result after 100 days is 1.01100=2.7x.
This is the power of exponential growth.
The effect becomes even more obvious for one year: 1.01365=37.8x
Let’s do psychology.
If someone tells you to make a progress of 2.7x in 100 days or 37.8x in one year that might be a bit scary. You might be overwhelmed.
On the other hand, 1% progress every day seems doable. If you do something every day you build a routine and after a while it becomes a normal part of your day – it becomes a habit.
There Is a Catch
Attention, you might have seen this calculation before and it is certainly impressive. But, there is a catch. Be careful if you have a very linear goal, for example writing a book. If you already have written 100 pages, 1% will be one page. Writing one page a day is certainly doable. At the end of a year that means to write 37.8 pages which might be a bit challenging.
Luckily there are some more exponential goals, too where you can build upon the previous steps like experience, network effects, growing reputation, etc. Then it is more like a financial investment where your wealth gains a certain percentage every year.
Measure the Progress
Same as for the goal results themselves you might want to measure the progress, for example the milestones. It keeps you motivated and on track. Use your regular goal reviews for measuring the progress and to take according action if required.
Try to find measurable criteria for your goal-setting progress. If you write a book, that might be the number of pages you intend to write each day. If you learn a new language it might be the time you practice each day.
Even if your goal is more abstract you ideally find some metrics. For example, if your goal is to live healthier, or become happier, what does that mean? First of all you need to define a measurable end goal. For your health the end goal might be to lose a certain weight and to be able to run five miles every week until the end of the year. Supportive habits then might be to stick to a certain diet, to reduce sugar or to workout every second day.
How do you measure happiness? You might use a self-assessment report. Or, you might measure the activities that give you joy, like a walk in nature or meetings with friends, and, last but not least, making progress with your goals.