The other day I was on TikTok (I know, bear with me as I gag for a bit 🤮). But I came across this clip that I found useful and got me thinking more about this concept of leading and lagging indicators.
This idea has its origins in business and economics circles. Leading and lagging indicators are the inputs and results that influence or showcase the position or trajectory of a business or entity.
Let’s break it down.
Lagging indicators are essentially results. They are the output, the culmination of all the your actions up to this point. They show you where you stand now and where you are coming from. These are things like your weight, your bank balance, your general level of happiness, whatever metric you want to look at.
This is usually where most people new to goal setting start when they begin their approach. They set goals based on lagging indicators, looking solely at the end result of their efforts, and then its off to the races.
You go out and you do whatever you have chosen as your path to get there. You keep in mind the goal of gaining 5kg, and you push on going to the gym 3 times a day, eating healthy, all the while comparing your results against your goals. Each week, you weigh yourself and see how well you are doing towards your goal.
This is useful, you have a clear sense of where you are, and where you want to go. By monitoring your results, the lagging indicators, you can keep yourself accountable to your goal.
However, this approach is limited for 3 reasons.
- Your focus is solely on your results which is just a snapshot of what has already happened. This would be the lump sum of your good efforts, a bunch of wasted effort and probably a lot of inertia and missteps. It’s good information, but you can’t change the past, and it has come too late.
- Because results can take time to manifest and arrive, we run the risk of getting discouraged on working towards our goals, and doing less of the things we need to be doing. You are a failure from day one, until you finally hit the goal.
- When you are only focused on results, you can easily fool yourself that you are busy taking action, when you are really just doing busy work and avoiding the real tasks you must undertake. Your inputs may not be targeted enough.
A better path to goal achieving, is to focus on leading indicators, the inputs needed to get you where you need to go. You need to be clear on choosing high quality inputs – what actual actions you need to take to achieve your goal. These are things like how often you work out, how consistent you are, what you eat every day.
So, your ‘focus’ shifts from the goal – ‘I want to gain 5kg’ to the process – ‘I work out 3 times a week and eat 5 nutritious meals every day’. And that becomes the target to hit every week and iterate upon, because instead of being solely obsessed about what results you are getting, you are focusing on the things that are actually in your control to execute and do.
If you are able to focus on these and get them right, then you are a success from day one, just for executing and sticking to the plan. You are not stressed or overwhelmed by your goal, but you are simply focused on getting it right on a day to day basis. You learn to enjoy the process, the journey. And as you get the hang of things and are consistent with your inputs, your results will catch up and get you where you need to be.
So, think about the big thing you are trying to achieve, and figure out what the leading indicators you should be focusing on. If you find inputs that are simple, within your control, trackable, with visible progression, and which are effectively aligned to your goals, then your success is only a matter of time.
At the time of writing this, it is February, we already just over a month into the new year. And if you are reading this, you are probably the type of person to have made goals and set targets for this year.
How are you doing on those by the way? Are you still excited and eagerly chasing after them or have you fallen off yet?
Most probably the cracks have started to show. Most people approach goals with the intention of making these vast sweeping changes at once, like they suddenly developed a new personality once the calendar flipped over a new year. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of will power, this is typically an exercise in failure.
To stay consistent and actually stand a chance of reaching your goals, you need to focus on tactics that make the changes a bit more subtle, consistent and lasting. Things like focusing on building the right habits, starting small, building new routines and feeding your motivation.
But there is one simple reason we tend to fall off our pursuit.
As stupid as it sounds, many times we lose track of a goal because we literally forget about it.
Every day is a struggle, with multitude of stimuli, questions, requests, demands, and distractions. It is very easy to start off the year with good intentions and then have things just trail off. I know, it happened to me many times.
We get busy, we get distracted, sometimes we even distract ourselves with ‘good’ things. It is often easier for me to just bury myself in work than face something I don’t want to yet. But we must fight to be aware of this tendency, and to take steps to mitigate it.
We do this by keeping the goal in front of us. Having a totem, a reminder, something physical, tangible or otherwise always in front of us that reminds us of what is important, of what we are moving towards.
In this way, when the demands come at us, when the distractions come, we are able to glance over quickly, and have our goals firmly at the front of our minds and thus we can respond appropriately.
My personal experience
2018 was the year I started blogging consistently, and by the end I was able to point to a full year of almost weekly updates. It was the year I really pushed my personal brand forward and made many strides in my life and work. I even released two books in that time. It was a year of incredible focus and consistency.
Up on to this point, I had struggled with pursuing some of my goals. I would start the year eager to get certain things done, and look up months later to see that although I was very busy doing many things, I had completely lost track of what was most important to me.
So what changed in the pivotal year of 2018? Many things, but one of the most powerful things I stumbled upon was changing my diary for the year into a totem. In the front and back inside covers, I had printed out and stuck sheets that highlighted my new personal brand, life philosophy and the multiple projects I wanted to get done.
Every time I opened that book, to take notes in a meeting, to plan, to keep track of tasks, I was reminded of the person I wanted to be, and the goals I was pursuing. It was inescapable. Having that constant reminder changed my life.
Here are 3 ways keeping your goals visible can change yours.
They serve as a constant reminder
Like I mentioned earlier, we often lose track of our goals because we just forget about them. Keeping your goals visible and close by serves as a near constant reminder of where we are going and what we are trying to get done. If we then choose not to pursue them, it is a more conscious decision as opposed to it just getting buried under the pile of other things vying for our attention.
They stimulate our minds
When our goals are perpetually in front of us, reminding us, our brains are constantly thinking about them, churning up ideas in the background, working on ways to achieve them, or build our lives around their pursuit. And if we enhance this by designing your environment in such a way that orients us towards our goals, it all combines us to move us steadily and automatically towards those ends.
Having your goals always in front of you also keeps you primed and sensitive. So that when opportunities come up, or chances for synchrony happen, you are ready to recognise and take advantage of them.
They build motivation
Seeing the vision constantly helps to cultivate burning desire. Something that is essential to helping you stick it out over the long run. Sometimes we set the goal we want, but we don’t want it enough to do whatever it takes. Keeping your goals in front of you stimulate the visions of it in your mind. They help you visualise having it and becoming the sort of person that achieves it. They also help fan the flames of desire until you are going after it with all you got.
Keeping your goals front and centre in your daily life is a small thing, but can have outsized effects. You can do this in many ways. You could keep a vision board close by, in your office, in your room. You could do as I did and dedicate pages of your daily planner to it. You could make it your phone or computer wallpaper, or place post-its all over your apartment. Whatever works for you.
Keep your goals in front of you, and they becomes that much easier to follow through.
Thank you for your attention and reading this to the end. If you enjoyed this post, please share with someone who you think might benefit greatly from it.
And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that never were. – Rainer Maria Rilke
At this time, around the world, millions are engaged in some form of reflection and planning. The much-needed holiday brings some sense of rest and refreshment. The new year offers the opportunity for a fresh start.
For some of us, 2017 may have been epic. We got new achievements, bagged jobs, got into relationships, etc. For the rest of us, it may have been disappointing, heartbreaking and stressful. For all us however, 2018 is an opportunity to have another go at it, on a ‘blank‘ slate.
If the past 12 months were great, it’s the time to double down and keep pushing. If the past year was bad, then now is as good a time to begin afresh, to reinvent one’s self. It is an opportunity to let go of the past and forge ahead boldly into the future. It is the opportunity to shed some bad habits and pick up new empowering ones. It is the chance to change our thinking and our lives. It is the chance to experience something new and powerful.
Making a change can be incredibly hard, but not impossible. There is a reason why so many of us abandon ship on our resolutions mere weeks in to the new year. That is because even though the year is new, we are still the same person we were last year. The euphoria of the new year may motivate us for the next few days, or weeks. But the hard work of change and growth will still remain. The only way we will get to the promised land of our dreams and hopes for the new year is by commitment to the cause.
Nothing happens by accident. 2018 will only be better than 2017 if you have been putting the work in. There is no magic wand or miracle on the horizon to grant you all your wishes. If 2017 was bad and you did not take the time to look back, analyze what you did wrong and refocus yourself for action, 2018 will be pretty much the same. If you had a great 2017 and decide to coast on what you did this last year, then the new one will be mediocre and possibly disappointing. But if you are focused on your grand vision, and you have taken stock of your weaknesses, and are committed to digging deeper and growing, stacking your next moves on the success of your past work, then you will win.
If you are like most of us, you know what it’s like to make a bold decision to change and then slip back into bad habits and programming. Moving forward to new goals can be a series of false starts, a pattern of two steps forwards and fifteen steps back. What launches us out of this rut? What sets off the paradigm shift and commitment that allows us to finally get what we want? How can we think, live and behave in such a way that we get what we want in 2018?
The first step is to embrace the false starts as part of the process. As long as we keep getting into the ring, learning from our mistakes and adjusting our course, eventually we will get there. It may not be pretty, it may not be sexy, but over time we will win. You don’t have to be perfect, just do more of what you want in your life this year, and you would have begun to succeed.
I know this headline probably lured you in expecting the magical 5-point list or elixir to success, but this is more of an invitation, to join me on this journey. This year, I will be writing more frequently. I have been a big fan and student of personal development over the years and I enjoy writing in the genre. Over the past 24 months, I have become increasingly concerned with how the rubber hits the road, how to make practical change. It is so easy to become a self-help junkie, absorbing success porn and indulging epiphanies make us feel good. Actually implementing the advice and creating real change takes real commitment and a specific mindset.
Over the past 2 years, I have been digging deeper into content and ideas from multiple authors, vloggers, and coaches, as well as mining my own experience for lessons with the specific intent of implementing them in real life and seeing if they work. So far, I have seen tangible impact on my life. I have learned so much, my business has grown, my work is better, I’m delivering more value. I am clearer and more focused than I have ever been, and perhaps most importantly, I have begun to learn how to be a doer and how to execute. And yet, I have only just started to scratch the surface. There is still so much yet to be done and to be learnt. I will be sharing what I have learnt so far and what I continue to learn on my journey as a means to crystalize my understanding of these principle and to codify them and leave a record, a contribution to the game if you will.
So, join me as I explore the idea of How to get what you want in 2018. How to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).
Wishing you success and growth in the new year!
P.S. I’ll also talk on branding, design and business because that’s what I do for a living. I believe that strong design, a great strategic brand and a solid knowledge of business principles are vital for startups and organizations to live up to their full potential.