Many people will tell you that it's hard to define success, that you're operating with a very subjective category. That's not true. They probably just don't like maths.
Mathematics as a study of quantities, spaces, structure and change became so very complex and complicated that most people sooner hate it rather than see the beauty in the way it describes the world; including success in life.
Basic maths, respect for numbers and, most importantly, measuring are the key tools for every individual who wishes to make progress in personal and professional life and measure real success. You simply have to love numbers and enjoy doing basic mathematical operations when it comes to life metrics and defining success.
While I don’t understand complex math very well, life metrics and measuring success are the things I do love and master. It’s the only way to see your real progress in life, how successful you are and the direction you’re pursuing.
If we want to define success and actually measure it, we need metrics. Numbers and basic math operations.
This is how you should define success in your life and also regularly measure your success progress:
How you should measure your success in life? Compare…
- Your current metrics on different life areas
- Your past metrics on different life areas (past month, year etc.)
- Don't compare yourself to others too much (only healthy competition is okay I guess)
If the table above is confusing, don't worry. In this blog post I will explain everything in detail. In addition to that, I’ll try to explain why regaining the love for numbers can help you a lot with succeed in life. Even more, in this article you will learn:
- Why you should love numbers and play with them at regular intervals (as the only real definition of success)
- Why we’re usually afraid of measuring our real progress and success in life
- How numbers can help you avoid the fake feeling of progress
- What and how you should measure in your personal life as success factors (with example of metrics)
- Other practical advice and a free document you can download (success metrics matrix)
- Why you should compare your success and metrics only to your past results, not other people
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Why we usually hate numbers as metrics of success
In the field of management and business, it has long been known that you can only manage the things that you can measure. Every professional plan and monitoring strategy first needs the analysis of the starting point, then the goal or the final outcome, followed by a preordained path, keeping all the agility along the way, and last but not least the desired speed of progress.
All subjective evaluation in that matter is futile. Firstly, because it’s incredibly hard to admit the truth of where you are to yourself and secondly because your brain and intuition are all too limited in their abilities.
Numbers describe by far the most realistic state, everything else is just beating around the bush and avoiding the bottom line. Because numbers reveal the truth, that’s why people are usually afraid of them.
It’s much easier to live a lie than to admit the truth to yourself. Even harder is to measure real progress and how successful you are when you go into action because progress is usually much slower than you expect and want it to be.
Here is the first important lesson regarding life metrics and measuring success in life. The main reasons why we love to avoid numbers and measuring how good we are:
- We hate to admit where we stand to ourselves
- Progress is usually much slower than we expect
- It’s much easier to lie to yourself that things are better than they really are
- If you don’t measure things, you can enjoy the fake feeling of progress
- Life is already tough, so why be even harder on yourself
Numbers are the ones that force you to face reality and accept it. Only numbers can show how successful you really are. Number are the ones defining success. It may be emotionally tough, but thankfully we have a tool for measuring progress.
You have to see what you get out of numbers and measuring. You may lose your illusions about life and where you stand and how successful you really are, but tricking yourself into believing that you’re improving something even though you’re staying in the same place doesn’t make any sense.
Here’s an example. A tough one, but it makes a point. People love to avoid numbers, even when things relating to their health start to get really serious. Do you know how many diabetes patients don’t measure their blood sugar levels and watch their diet? Even when people risk losing their sight or getting their limbs cut off. Their body is in real danger, but they still tend to avoid numbers that could help them manage life better.
Vanity metrics and fake definition of success
Besides avoiding measuring altogether, here is another more or less emotional trap of defining and measuring success. When we start measuring, we all like to measure things that are giving us a feeling of progress and fake feeling of success.
We like to measure things that make us feel good about ourselves and how successful we are, even if it’s only a fake progress or fake success.
Therefore you must be very careful how you set your life metrics and how you measure success in life. With vanity metrics you can lie to yourself about how hard you’re working towards the goals, but you’re actually choosing the easier path that doesn’t lead to any real results.
You’re running in a hamster wheel and at the same time measuring your false effort only to feel a little bit better.
Here’s an example – a scale. A lot of people get excited when, after a few days of starving, they lose a couple of kilograms, but in reality they did a lot more damage than good to their body.
Losing water and muscle mass that results in a scale showing less weight is an unrealistic display of progress. So you always need a real combination of metrics that reflect your actual progress and success. In your personal as well as your business life.
In business, a CEO who only monitors how much money the company has in the bank and the income statement just before the year ends in order to optimize the profits is a very lousy CEO. With all the technology available and existing science on how to monitor business progress, from the financial, customer, marketing and other business functions’ aspects, it is very sad that someone would steer the business ship with extremely limited information.
It’s no different in personal life. A successfully set system of measuring progress and success presents an incredible advantage in life, because it enables real discipline and consistent validated learning about yourself. And validated learning means faster progress because you get insights into what works best for you.
Only real, actionable metrics can help you figure out which approaches lead to what you want the fastest and which approaches can maybe even bring setbacks in your personal case.
Therefore, a part of your success metrics must always also mean experimenting in the search mode.
If we go back to the previous example of a scale. You decided to lose weight and get fit. You don’t measure only how much a scale shows, but also your fat percentage, cardiorespiratory capacity, muscle strength and endurance and so on. With the right set of metrics you can change your workout and diet every few weeks and see what gives you the fastest progress.
The bottom line is, you want to avoid vanity metrics of success because of the following reasons:
- You don’t want to look rich (while having lots of debt); you want to be rich.
- You don’t want you and your family to just smile for the picture but really be happy in everyday life.
- You don’t want your scale to show a number as low as possible, but be really fit .
- You don’t want to just have a job, but you want a job you love and make a good living out of it.
- You don’t want to gossip in a bar about world news and happenings, thinking how smart you are; you actually want to read a book a week and improve your knowledge and competence level.
It’s right to grow fond of numbers and measure progress and success in both personal and business life. This is the only way to admit your actual starting point to yourself (where you are), make a plan of where you want to go while staying completely flexible on how you’ll get there.
Loving numbers and metrics can also help you measure how fast you’re progressing towards being really successful in life and, equally importantly, enable you validated learning about yourself and the World (with experiments and tests that you do). And validated learning means having insights into how to shape your superior life strategy to make sure your progress is the fastest and to achieve your maximal potential and success.
Numbers are the ones that show that you aren’t only doing meaningless work but rather forging results. When you get to numbers and bottom-lines, all bigmouths run away. When you look at numbers you know how successful you really are.
When talking about personal development and success in life, there are five basic areas that you should regularly measure in one way or another. What and how you will actually measure greatly depends on your life strategy, but measuring and progressing on all five areas at some point will really help you to achieve your peak potential and be ultra successful in life.
Here are the areas you should measure and greatly contribute to success in personal and professional life:
- Money and career
- Closest relationships
- Mind and feelings
I should, of course, warn you that there is a big chance that you’ll be disappointed when you first start following metrics and figure out your real state and your starting point. As I mentioned, we love to lie to ourselves about where we stand in different areas of life.
The way psychology works is that you often describe yourself to yourself a lot better than the actual state is. This is why we all like to avoid measuring success so much.
Still, the sooner that you admit the truth to yourself, the faster you can make progress; the truth itself often motivates you for work. And it’s not all that dark. As you will see, you stand better in some areas of life than others.
Now let’s dive a bit deeper into each of the five mentioned areas.
Health is the first area where you need to make use of maths skills and measure your success in life. Much like you take your car for regular car service and much like financial statements show the health of your company, you have well-developed metrics that show how healthy your body is. A
healthy spirit can only live in a healthy body and hundreds of pages have already been written on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
There are a few key areas you should measure when it comes to your health:
- Potential progress of any illness you have
- Managing your body’s weak points
- Regular blood tests (one a year)
- Body composition (% of fat etc.)
- Aerobic endurance
- Muscular endurance
- Muscular strength
- Other biofeedback you can gather with devices and are interested in
In the past, I personally strongly neglected this aspect, but now I’m trying to slowly take care of my health a lot better. If you neglected your health in the past, progress is incredibly slow and demands a lot of iron-clad will, endurance and discipline.
Statistics show that incredibly few people manage to lose weight in a healthy manner and even fewer have enough willpower to get fit.
The state of your fitness level is often a lot worse than you imagined. One visit to the gym can quickly show that you’ve been neglecting your body for years and years. And if you decide to get into shape, it’s right that you get help from experts (personal trainers), together with the right metrics, professional work programme and consistent measuring of progress.
Progress can be slow, but in a few weeks, you will see the first results, as long as you stick to the set training program. The good news is that the first results will motivate you to continue on your path of becoming fitter. This is how you become more and more successful regarding your health and fitness.
If you’re a newbie in taking care of your health, please really do start with certified trainers who have good references. Otherwise you can do serious damage to your health, especially in the gym. Afterward, when you take care of strong fitness foundations with a personal trainer and you’re ready to exercise on your own, there are many apps (nutrition trackers, exercise trackers, etc.) that can help you measure your real progress.
Money and career
By far the clearest benefits of measuring things in your personal life are shown in the financial field. Money is already connected to numbers by its very nature; it’s after all a piece of paper with a couple of numbers printed on it. And you either manage your money or you always have a lack of it. That’s usually the rule.
Money is definitely one of the success factors in life. And you either manage your money or you always have a lack of it.
There are two categories you should measure when it comes to your money and how successful you are:
- Personal income – How much money you make and keep after your spendings
- Net-worth – How many assets you own (after deducting all the debt)
If you’re good at acquiring and managing money, both numbers should be increasing over your lifetime. There can be temporary situations when they don’t. You start your own business, an accident happens, you make a bad investment, a financial crisis comes, etc. It’s a part of life. Remember, being broke is a temporary state, but being poor is a state of mind.
But only having enough financial literacy, together with proper measuring and management, can tell you if you’ve made a stupid decision regarding your money or were just unlucky; and how much damage has been done to your wallet and financial situation.
Well, despite the occasional ups and downs, you want to be in as good financial health as possible. Thus you want to manage your money very carefully. If you want to do that, you have to measure.
As with all the measuring, a consistent analysis of where you are financially comes first. You wouldn't believe it, but many people don't have a clue. I hope you are not one of them. Technology today enables you to track your money consumption and your net worth very easily. You should always know what kind of a financial shape you’re in and how your spending habits look.
The interesting thing is that when you first start to track your spending habits, a few additional good things usually happen:
- A consistent analysis quickly shows that you spend way too much money on certain things you don’t need. Expensive coffees, snacks, lumber, clothes, You get data about where and how you can save more money.
- Additionally, budgeting, entering and tracking every individual cost contributes to you giving another thought to whether you really need something new to buy. As a result, you spend less money, especially on stupid things. You start to manage your potential emotional purchases At the end of the day, the main idea is that you spend less than you earn.
- You start paying yourself first, which is the most important rule of successfully handling money. You become so intrigued by personal finance and managing your money that you want to take care of your investments before you spend your money on anything else.
Even more demanding, but consequently also a lot more useful, is managing your wealth and seeing how your net worth grows. You can quickly realize that achieving decent yield with your investments is incredibly difficult, and increasing your wealth is a strenuous and long-lasting process.
Actually, there are two paths to financial abundance in your personal life:
- You take care of income explosion and cost control by starting your own business, for example, and consequently make so much money with one move that all your future financial needs are covered. It’s a risky business, but it can be done.
- You slowly and carefully make sure that your savings grow and that you make good investments. This path is a lot more difficult if you don’t measure your progress regularly. But luckily a slightly bigger net worth every month means a lot bigger wealth in the long term, if you invest smartly enough.
Again, it all depends on your life strategy. Nevertheless money is definitely one factor of success. Thus you should become really good at managing it.
Besides money, career is also one of the life areas where metrics and management are a necessity. It’s slightly more difficult to measure career progress, because you also have to use slightly more subjective metrics, but it can be done.
There are many metrics you can choose from and they greatly depend on your career goals. Examples are how much you earn, your position in the company, public influence, social media influence, how much you enjoy your work, the number of professional connections you have, etc. If your career is important to you, you can always find a set of metrics that show realistic progress in your career life.
Your closest relationships
The quality and depth of every (intimate) relationship depends primarily on the number of hours you spend with the person enjoying positive, playful emotions. This includes planning, creating things together, following common goals, doing things you both love, relaxing and enjoying life and, in the case of intimate relationships, we can also add making love.
The only time that really counts and contributes to the relationship quality and depth is the time you spend together full of positive feelings. Fighting or sitting in front of the TV doesn’t count. Everyone immediately knows when there is positive time spent together with other people and when there isn’t.
Once you measure how many quality hours you spend with your intimate partner and other people you love, you can quickly get embarrassed. You realize how people who mean the most to you in the world you sometimes unintentionally neglect and consequently also don’t live the entire potential of the relationship.
Many times, you may even have a false belief of how much quality time you spend with the people you love. But when you subtract sleep, working hours, commuting, housework, fighting, you may find that you spend way less time with people you love than you should. If you don’t measure, you don’t know.
A simple analysis can show that things are even worse. After analyzing data, you may figure out that you spend more time with people that give you headaches in life and aren’t even close to you (like work, toxic relationships, etc.) rather than spending it with people who bring love, happiness and joy into your life.
Maybe because you need emotional drama in life, maybe because you’re addicted to work, or for whatever other reason. It’s something you don’t want to do. Numbers help you manage such things.
Measuring how you spend your time also shows your priorities and values. Only by actually measuring how you spend your time can you figure out what your values or priorities in life are and where they’re leading you. If your close relationships aren’t at the very top of your priorities, there’s a big possibility that you have lousy relationships in your life. And it's hard to be successfull in life without deep and meaningful relationships.
Besides measuring how much quality time you spend with the people you love, there are many other things you can measure. Here are a few examples:
- How much you do for your partner (investment in a relationship)
- How much you get out of a relationship (giving and receiving must be in balance)
- How often you say I love you
- How often you give a compliment to your partner
- How often you make love
- Number of close relationships you have in life
Same goes for children. Children spell love as T-I-M-E. Spent quality time together. And not only children, same goes for all other relationships you care about.
Now, the point of measuring is not to take all the romance out of relationships. It’s not like you have to write down every single thing you do and every minute you invest. It’s more about taking a week or two every once in a while to observe yourself and other people you care about, and becoming aware of what’s going on with your relationships based on fundamental relationship metrics.
Are you getting closer to the people you love, or is there an increasing distance? Do you enjoy the time you spend with the people you love or are you constantly fighting? Love won’t miraculously solve your personal relationships; proper management (day by day) will.
Now let’s move on to developing your personal competences. The first thing you should measure is how much time you spend on the idiot box, also known as the multi-media ad player or even better known as the television, and how much time you spend lost on the internet.
They are the two biggest enemies of your personal development and progress and success in life. Including acquiring new competences. You’ll be surprised at how much of your time they take. Unless you’ve already dealt with these big time wasters.
An average person spends at least 10 to 20 hours a week in front of the TV, programming themselves into a diligent consumer, wasting their precious life. The only people who get anything from the television are those on the other side of the screen.
In the second step, compare the time you spend watching TV and browsing the internet to how many hours a month you invest in your knowledge and the development of your other competences – by studying, going to seminars, reading books and similar. You’ll also probably be surprised.
An average person is close to zero investment in themselves, those who give their best maybe get a few hours a week. That’s very lousy considering how many competences and talents an individual can develop and how important they are in the knowledge-based society.
Compare 0 or 1 hour of reading per week to 20 hours of watching TV. It’s a very bad ratio.
Once you openly admit to yourself how little you invest in yourself and your progress, you quickly change your perspective on time wasters. Remember, you should invest into yourself, because it’s the best and ultimate investment that exists.
There’s power in knowledge, and in the creative knowledge society, you strongly lag behind if you don’t invest into yourself. In the long term, whining about how tough and unfair life is won’t help at all, but competences undoubtedly will. With competences, the world is your oyster. Only with competences you can really succeed in life.
Here is what you should be measuring when it comes to developing your competences and success in life:
- How much time you spend reading (and other ways of developing competences)
- Domain knowledge you possess
- The number of skills you master
- Your IQ (if you dare)
- Your EQ
Controlling your mind
And finally the most difficult one. The quality of your life and how successful you are strongly depends on whether you control your mind or your mind controls you. That’s the basis of Buddhism and a few other, especially Eastern, religions and philosophies.
The main tool of strengthening control over your mind is meditation. Measure how much time you can spend sitting in the same spot, focused on one point (or thought or your chakra) and you’ll find how strong your control over your mind is.
If you don’t meditate regularly, you’ll be very disappointed. After a few minutes, thoughts will start forcefully entering your mind, parts of your body will start itching, you’ll feel incredibly uncomfortable.
The less time you can do this for, the more your mind controls you. If something is not really itching you. ;) The more the mind controls you, the more negative thoughts this usually means. The more negative thoughts, the lower the quality of life. The more suffering in life, the lower the level of consciousness.
The positive thing is that the more you meditate in life, the more you strengthen the muscle of control over your mind. And if you do all this with an inner smile and not with struggle, you’ll also be able to live a much happier life in general. You learn to carry the inner smile with you.
Here is a simple measurement then. The longer you can meditate, the more control you have over your mind. The more successful you are in life. Now sit down somewhere quiet and test yourself. Face the ultimate metric of mind control.
Taking feelings into account
Your feeling are closely connected to your thoughts, so here’s the place where we should mention them. People love to neglect their feelings. The best way to give more attention to your feelings is by regularly observing them, listening to them, understanding them as well as managing them.
The best way of listening to your feelings better is the so-called Happiness Index. Every morning or evening you mark how you feel on a scale.
In the next step, you try to figure out why you feel the way you feel. If you figure out that negative feelings are the consequence of negative thoughts (which they usually are), then it’s right that you face negative thinking.
The best way for this is the so-called emotional accounting as one of the central tools of cognitive psychology.
To sum up, here are a few things you can measure when it comes to your mind and emotions:
- How well you’re able to control your mind (your maximum meditating time)
- Your daily Happiness index
- Number of negative thoughts daily (using emotional accounting)
- Dominating cognitive distortions
You can’t do everything at once, and the first steps
Not everything can happen at once. Setting the goal that you will integrate all the life metrics at once and measure how successful you are is unrealistic. You have to make progress step by step, preferably by focusing on one area.
Too many demanding goals lead to you doing a lot of things badly, which is the same as doing nothing. So step by step, gradually and slowly start with basic metrics in one area and then add new metrics of success. Once you master one field, you move on to the next one.
It’s by far the best to start with health, since improving health always very positively influences all other areas. But you can also choose the area where you’re currently facing the most problems or you’re doing the worst.
Once you use measuring and life metrics to integrate new behavioral patterns into your life, area after area, you can also notice the incredible transformation of the overall quality of your life. All the effort that you put in slowly pays off.
You must never forget that with time, the hard road becomes easy and the easy road becomes hard. Choose the more difficult road that leads into a brighter future of your life. And the more difficult path is the one supported by actual metrics and measuring real progress.
When it comes to success, compete only with yourself
Please take another look at the table below. It should be immediately obvious to you why success is not a subjective category at all and that you can indeed measure it, but the only thing that makes sense when measuring your success level is to compete with your previous self.
Compare your position now with your position a month or a year ago. That's how you should measure your success; make sure you're becoming better version of your self step by step. Make sure you improve a little bit every day and every month and every year. That's how you will become successful and great.
But by comparing yourself too much to other people, you're doomed from the very beginning. Why? Because there will always be someone better than you are, in every single area of life. Other people should be a kind of a reference point for you and people who perform better should motivate you to become even better version yourself, but when you compare yourself to others too much, you can quickly start putting yourself in the victim and self-pity mindset, ruminating how life is unfair.
For example, you can't compete with someone who inherited millions in assets, if you're starting from financial ground zero. You can't compete with someone who has been an athlete their whole life, with the right sportsman DNA and incredible muscle memory, if you didn't ever exercise. You can't compare yourself to a monk meditating for hours after your first meditation.
Compare your metrics with the ones from the previous month or year. Compete only with your previous self. That's how you can measure your real success in life.
- * Internal asset – Can grow only linear. Learn more
- ** External asset – Can grow exponentially. Learn more
Below, you can download the table I call the life success metric matrix (PDF), completely for free:
Enjoy numbers and monitor the progress that you’ll definitely be proud of! And keep track of this blog, because in the future, a lot of time will be devoted to the actual metrics of each individual area of life. This is the only way to really measure your success.
Now you know how to define success and measure it, so take action
Now it’s time for homework. Knowledge without action is useless. So here’s what you should do:
- Choose one life area (health, money, career, relationships, competences, mind/emotions). If you don’t know where to begin, start with your health or wherever you lag behind the most.
- Set some basic metrics of success for the chosen life area. Below is the summary of metrics you can start measuring as the beginning in different life areas.
- Set a system of how you will measure your progress (Excel, apps, frequency,) and set all the necessary reminders that will help you keep consistency.
- Also, prepare a list of books you will read in the chosen life area, so you will acquire new knowledge and upgrade your set of metrics when you’re ready. Use the rule that you always go straight for the best knowledge.
- Measure your progress at regular intervals.
- After every measurement, make sure you do self-reflection and make a decision on what you will stop doing, what you will start doing and what new experiments you will try.
- Enjoy your progress and be proud of the discipline you’re keeping. Not many people can pull that off.
- Never compare yourself to other people. Only compare your progress to your previous self.
Do you want to be more successful in life?
Read more about the massive success formula.