Back in the early 1900s in far-off Austria, there was a little guy who was getting exposed to mind-blowing things than you and I could’ve ever hoped to experience at a young age. People like Sigmund Freud and Joseph Schumpeter would come to his house just to hang out and talk to his dad. This tells us two things.
1) He was probably exposed to some crazy ideas and theories at a young age.
2) Those dinners were probably more like parties. It’s no secret Freud was a fan of cocaine while also waxing poetic about Oedipal complexes.
Sometimes when young people are exposed to great minds at a young age they end up becoming great minds themselves. This little fella was no different. He became a bit of a rebel himself. Turning into someone who was widely known within Nazi Germany, and publishing papers that were so critical of the Nazi’s and their treatment of Jews that he was forced to move to London.
In London, a few years later, our guy is sitting in on a lecture by John Maynard Keynes, basically one of the biggest economic heavyweights in history, and he has an epiphany. That epiphany being this: He enjoys studying the behavior of people. So what does our guy do? He starts studying people, of course. He devotes his life to figuring out people, and how to get people to do great things.
Our guy is none other than world-renowned management guru Peter Drucker. Drucker is essentially the father of modern management practices and is cited by successful executives all over the world as huge influences in how they work.
One of his most popular quotes of all time is this little gem you’ve probably heard before:
“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
There’s a lot we can learn from Drucker. Whether you’re a business owner who has employees working under you, a middle-level manager in a large organization, or just someone looking to change aspects of your life.
But without a doubt, one of the most effective tools you could ever hope to implement from Drucker into your own life is how you manage your health, weight loss, and performance goals. Anyone who has ever made an honest attempt at changing their life, especially in arenas like health and fitness, knows there are a myriad of challenges that come along with trying to change who you’ve been over the last 5, 10, 15+ years. More often than not, the people who excel at changing those aspects of their life are the people who measure and then manage the variables that go into those things.
We’re surprisingly terrible at the big picture.
We’re awful at considering the big picture. We think in a world of right now. It’s only natural, and part of that is evolutionary. It pays off to pay attention to what has just happened, or what is about to happen. This doesn’t pay off when we’re working towards a big goal though. Especially if that goal is physical.
It’s natural for us to create a cause and effect narrative in our minds. We do something and expect an immediate effect. Unfortunately, things very rarely play out like this when it comes to our health, weight loss, or training efforts. Success is the culmination behaviors enacted day after day, for a long time. A really long time. So it makes sense that in order for us to reach some of the larger goals we set for ourselves we have to find a way to keep us grounded in the day-to-day. One way to think about that is how we classify our goals.
There are two types of goals. Behavior goals and outcome goals.
Outcome goals are the ones you’re probably most familiar with. Think something like:
“I want to lose 50lbs”
Outcome goals are easy to think about, because these are what we’re most familiar with. They’re the ones that we see on the magazine covers while we’re in the checkout line.
Behavior goals, however, are a little bit more difficult for us to internalize and understand. The kicker though is that they’re far more important to long-term success. Behavior goals are the stepping stones we walk along to reach our outcome goals. Behavior goals are usually something like:
“I’ll eat one salad every day this week.”
Without behavior goals, outcome goals are virtually impossible. This is the exact reason why it’s not only important to get behavior goals down but to measure and then manage them. Just as Drucker would have you do.
Behaviors you need to measure:
1. How much food you’re eating.
Hopefully, everyone reading this already sees the value in tracking your food intake each day. In the nearly 4 years that Stronger U has been around we’ve helped guide our members in the process of losing over 200,000 pounds, all of it coming from teaching people how to properly measure and manage their food intake.
However, if you’ve never measured how much food you’re eating before, this is actually a valuable skill to pick up. You’ll probably be shocked to find out where the bulk of your calories actually come from, and the calorie count of some things you never would’ve suspected to be so high. It’s valuable to learn what actually constitutes a serving of sour cream, and how calorie dense cheese, sauces, and other toppings really are.
Learning what 4oz of chicken breast, 1oz of cheese, and a cup of vegetables, actually looks like can help someone immensely in estimating how many calories are in a meal when they’re eating out. Eating at restaurants is usually a tough task for any dieter. Even if they’ve looked up the menu and nutrition facts before.
Learning how to calculate total calories, and make accurate estimates is an invaluable skill that benefits any dieter in the long run. It’s also a weird party trick. I guarantee you’re the only friend in your social circle who can guess how many ounces that New York Strip weighs, and factor in the butter when determining total calories. You will be envied, imitated, and loved by all. It’s going to be great.
Okay, so maybe that last bit is a bit of a stretch. But you get the point.
2. How much you’re exercising.
How do you know if your program is setting you up for success and getting you closer to your goals? The quickest way to figure it out is to measure it. Record the sets, reps, and weight lifted. If you’re doing cardio, then record how long it took you, how far you went, and write down notes on how it felt.
This is by far and away the quickest and most effective way to evaluate a training program. It removes the very subjective, “well I really feel like it has to be working, I’m so exhausted after.” completely.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is very real value in just moving your body and doing things because it feels good. In fact, I’d argue that for most of us we should spend about 80% of our training time doing things that we enjoy and can actually do on a weekly basis. Be it hiking, Zumba, weight lifting, whatever. Anything that you enjoy doing and gets your body moving is something that you should probably do. Not all of our training or workouts have to be these carefully managed experiences in calculating total pounds lifted.
But, I also come from a long Personal Training background, so I’d be remiss not to talk about the importance of measuring our activity level when we actually do have some kind of performance goal in mind.
No matter if you’re looking to compete in a Triathlon, weightlifting competition, CrossFit competition, or something similar. If you want to see appreciable progress in some kind of physical sport or hobby you like doing, measuring and managing how much time you spend doing that can be incredibly valuable.
For some, it might be measuring total milage whereas for others it might be managing total pounds lifted, and yet for others, it might be total training hours in a week. What matters is that you find your method that is appropriate for you and your goals, then get to measuring and managing.
3. Progress markers.
Okay, so this one might technically not be a behavior-based goal, but progress markers an important way to evaluate the overall effectiveness of a program. At Stronger U, we love weight, measurements, and pictures while also using tools like daily stress levels, hours of sleep, water intake, and more. These all used in conjunction can do a fantastic job for a few reasons.
- Progress doesn’t happen in a nice and neat linear fashion. It just doesn’t. It sucks at times, but the scale weight sometimes won’t drop exactly 1lb per week just like you want it to. If the only way you measure progress is via the scale, this can really piss you off.
- If you measure via the scale AND a measuring tape though, this can help put things in perspective. Scale weight not moving but the tape is dropping? Then good! Good things are still happening, even if the scale is acting like a jerk.
- Measuring weight, the tape measure, and still frustrated? This is where progress pictures are really important. Progress pictures that are taken every 2-4 weeks allow you to look back and see just how far you’ve come, and the total amount of progress you’ve made. Often times we don’t notice this progress, because we see ourselves every single day. However, looking at our pictures from 4, 6, 8, or 12 weeks ago can do wonders in putting into perspective just how far we’ve really come.
There are other ways to measure progress for sure. How clothes fit is a really good example. Another good example is by going off of what people who don’t see you regularly say about your look. That is not one that you should depend on by any means, but we’re not being realistic if we just ignore how uplifting a comment from a friend we haven’t seen in a long time can actually be.
Anything and everything can be measured, and it’s something that most people who have successfully changed their life in some avenue or another have figured out. They’ve measured some sort of variable and use that variable to gauge progress and reevaluate as time goes on. At Stronger U, we love teaching people how to track their food intake and progress metrics, and in our experience, we find that tracking those metrics works most effectively when they’re used as a way to track your daily behaviors. Because, as I said above, those behavior-based goals are the stepping stones that get you towards your larger outcome goal.