Want Success? What are You Tracking?
Written by Dr. Larry
TThe past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on what I think is one of the most important questions when it comes to personal success and even happiness:
What are you tracking?
This isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m wondering, what do you track? Anything? I’m talking about goals, but more than the process of selecting a goal and declaring it to the universe, or writing it down. I’m talking about periodically writing down (or putting into an app) your progress. On a regular basis.
There are two areas that we men commonly track: health and money. Both easily lend to being quantified. Whether you are tracking the dollar$ in your savings account, 401K retirement account or net worth (a sum total of your financial standing), or you follow your weight, body fat percentage or how much you can bench — we like numbers. And, when we follow them regularly, we are more likely to get them to go the direction we want, whether that’s up or down. So point No. 1 that I want to make is:
1. WHAT YOU TRACK GETS BETTER.
So. Are you tracking anything? I wonder what one thing, if you started tracking it today, might bring you closer to accomplishing a meaningful goal…
What I’ve noticed in my own life is that when I track something, the tracking process alone is one of the most important things to success. Even if I don’t bring any intention to it, just merely raising it to my awareness on a regular basis and bringing it into my consciousness starts the process of making whatever I’m tracking better. A form of accountability.
I remember a family friend who hadn’t weighed himself in who knows how long. When he stepped on the scale, he saw that he weighed the same as an offensive guard in the NFL (more than 260 lbs.) — except he had been on the allsports bench (his couch) for decades. He was shocked and started to cut out the fast food and walk more. He started tracking his weight, and lost 30 pounds.
You get it. Tracking something alone works. The converse — that not tracking something doesn’t work — is also true. When I don’t track my weight or my expenditures, I tend to let myself go diet-wise and pack on some pounds, or spend more than I should.
It’s not just tracking that matters, it’s WHAT you track affects your outcome. I’ve tracked my weight since 2011 on a WiFi scale that saves the info online for me. After I wrote my book “The Gentleman’s Diet,” I went from 181 lbs. down to 165, losing about 15 pounds and feeling pretty good about it. I tracked and achieved that goal, mainly by reducing calories, and incorporating lots of cardio and some weight lifting.
But I have since realized that the weight of 165 wasn’t the best measure of what I really wanted, which was a more muscular and lean (low-fat) body. I now know that what I did then probably cost me some muscle (I wasn’t lifting enough or eating enough protein), possibly setting me back in the long run. Tracking only my weight was not in alignment with my real goals of being leaner, stronger and in better athletic shape.
So, I changed what I was tracking from my weight to specifically gaining muscle and losing fat. Gains, bro. I track that every 6-8 weeks with a Dexascan, basically an x-ray that divides your tissue into one of three things: bone, fat and everything else (lean tissue, which is mostly muscle).
I’ve had times where I’ve gained weight by losing fat and gaining muscle. If I was tracking only weight, I might have thought I was going in the wrong direction and changed my plan. But, because what I was tracking was better aligned with my goals, I’ve continued on that path. Now for that goal, I can also measure my waist and compare before and after pics of my abs, or get skin calipers to pinch the fat to measure body fat percentage. I prefer Dexa because it gives me a number.
Have I hammered this to oblivion yet? Make sure what you track actually aligns with your goals.
Up to this point, I’ve been talking about bodies and money. I think we men like these two areas precisely because they lend themselves to being quantified and, therefore, tracked. Watching your retirement account go up over the years alongside your max deadlift gives a nice sense of certainty that what you are doing is working.
2. WHAT YOU TRACK AFFECTS YOUR OUTCOME. SO MAKE SURE TO ALIGN WHAT YOU TRACK WITH YOUR GOAL.
Therein lies a challenge I want to touch on before concluding: Don’t forget the things that are important to you — mainly relationships and fun — that are difficult to quantify.
I’m such a believer in this tracking process that I’ve even started to track my daily well-being and happiness and slap a 1-10 number on it. A little awkward, but it just helps reinforce the things that really impact how I feel (like sleep, exercise and daily gratitude) from what doesn’t matter as much (the weather, my location, politics).
But how do we quantify our love life or social life? Or my relationship with my daughter? What are my endpoints that I’m keeping an eye on?
It’s important to point out that a limitation to goals and the tracking process is some important things are simply not quantifiable. And I actually think that’s a big reason why we men often neglect things like relationships and let them go. We can see our bank accounts. But where is the meter on our computer next to net worth that measures our relationship with our daughter? It’s not there. Maybe it should be.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t figured out how to include these other important things alongside money and body, but I know they should be there. Any suggestions?
3. SOME IMPORTANT THINGS ARE HARD TO TRACK. TRACK THEM ANYWAY.
One thing: I want you to track at least one thing. Write it down, or follow it online/on an app. Because tracking something, especially when aligned with your goals, moves you closer to your goals — and that life you want.