Measure Often

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 

Luke 14:28-32 (NIV)

In the passage above Jesus instructs the large crowds that are following him about the cost of being a disciple.  With such a furor of notoriety to his miracles and wonders, I could imagine many were considering being part of his entourage.  After all, who doesn’t want to be associated with greatness?  As he observes this, he instructs parabolically, as was his custom.  Surely the cost of our intentions must be assessed before we make a commitment.  Surely we must take regular stock of our planned directions, ensuring that we are still connected to the inspiration that brought us to start the journey in the first place.

I have always been somewhat of a disciplined person.  I therefore count myself fortunate to be married to someone for whom discipline is a strong character trait.  Shivana and I enjoy connecting our aspirations to resultant plans to the execution (and the sacrifice that is sometimes needed).  Even though we are this way, however, we have had to learn the important step of assessment.  I will let Shivana tell it in her own words…

I enjoy planning – I plan my workouts, my meals, my grocery lists, our finances, and the list can go on. Planning helps me to feel calmer because I know there is a path forward to a specific objective I am working toward. But do you know what blows up that calm? Not actually following my plan! I am not talking about being adaptable to the unpredictability in any given day of life. I am talking about not taking the specific and conscious actions to assess my progress against my plan and then course correct when needed.

Let me illustrate with a personal life example. Recently, I crafted a meal plan around macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fat) that was aligned with my goal to build muscle. I took deliberate steps to follow my plan, and even recorded all that I ate daily. Yet, at the end of the day, I was still over my intended targeted levels for my macronutrients – which meant I would miss the goal my plan was supposed to help me achieve. Turns out, my plan was missing a step and needed some tweaking. What I needed to do was allocate a certain amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fat for each of my meals, and when that specific meal time came up, all I needed to do was execute on what I already planned. Evaluating and refining my plan made it so much easier to follow my plan and stay on track with confidence that I was making progress toward my goals.

Ok, some life goals can be much bigger than meal plans, I get it. But the principles to achieve small goals are absolutely same as the principles needed to achieve bigger things in life. Here is a really simple, but effective, way to start building momentum toward your goals:

👉 First, know the goal you want to achieve.

👉 Next, make the plan – what are the specific things you need to do, when do you need to do them by, how often do you need todo them?

👉 Then the magic step – take action! DO the things on the plan, yes, do it (ok Nike, you really have the best tag line!). But don’t miss the next one!

👉 Measure what you are doing; frequently evaluate what you are doing and assess if it is moving you along the right path to your specific goal. Make the tweaks in your plan and course correct along the way.

I’m all for the joys of life’s spontaneity. And I am also all for the joys of realizing our dreams. We don’t accidently stumble into achieving our goals; we must take intentional, consistent action. We grow toward our goals, and this requires intentionality.

We do not automatically get better. We do not automatically become the leader we want to be, or achieve the goals we want. We must have a plan, with clear, practical steps. Practical does not mean easy, but it does mean that it is within our direct influence to apply effort toward, even if difficult and uncomfortable. Getting better is an uphill climb; but it is worth the effort.  

Sometimes, we have a clear vision of who we want to be, but we move along life just winging it. Not sure how close or far away we are from achieving the vision. This can eventually lead to just not pursuing the vision.

This does not have to be you though. If you need help putting together a practical plan that will help you grow into the leader and person you want to be, take your first step today. With each step, you will see that your action fuels your motivation to keep moving forward, and then you will build unstoppable momentum toward your goal. Even slow, steady progress is progress and will build momentum.

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