Back in 2013 and 2014, when I was studying coaching for the first time seriously, a coach told me “Results are the only thing that matter. But the results don’t matter.”
Was that some kind of Jedi mind-bending technique?
The reality is, we all measure progress by results. If we aren’t getting results “this doesn’t work”. Of course, the question is not simply – what are my intentions – but are my actions paving the road to success.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
Having good intentions are not enough. In fact, most problems in the world can be traced back to good intentions. Followed by inaction or the wrong actions. Think of your New Year’s resolutions.
What did you intend for 2019?
Now, have a look at your results for the year. Were intentions enough?
Intentions require actions, leading to results. Nonetheless, even good intentions, followed by actions, can pave the road to hell.
Most people in the world have good intentions. At least, from the perspective of the person making the choices and decisions. Hitler had seemingly good intentions, at least in his own eyes and the eyes of all those who chose to follow him! I imagine those leading the inquisition justified to themselves that they had good intentions as well for their torture and witch hunts! We may look back in horror at their results, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Consider for a moment, even a benign intention like “I’m going to work harder, so that I can get that promotion”. Does it take into account the quality of your relationships – at work and at home? Or are you measuring your results and success by the extra hours spent working and your productivity in “getting things done”? Are you only measuring your success as “promotion / no promotion”?
Awareness: know your results
Good intentions and lots of activity can keep you busy. But, as Covey would say – Is your ladder leaning against the right wall?
If you are not getting the results you intended, perhaps you need to revisit and revise your planning and execution. In some cases, this is because more homework and background investigation is necessary (although I always have to be careful that I don’t use that as a manner of procrastination!).
Whatever your plan, you need milestones so that you can track your progress. Roads have milestones, which allow you to see how far along your journey you have come. And any good plan that you have towards a goal, should also have milestones that allow you to see that you are moving in the right direction and making progress.
What kind of impact does all your activity have?
Another important question is “am I looking at the right results?”
For example, if the purpose of getting a promotion at work was to have more free time to spend with your family, but now you have discovered that you are spending less time with your family, in spite of the promotion, perhaps it’s time to have a look at how you are measuring your results.
On the one hand – the success was getting the promotion.
On the other hand – you did not get more time with your family by getting the promotion.
What results are you looking at when you measure progress?
It’s easier to measure, of course, process goals than to measure outcome goals. A process goal is something like “get a promotion” – which is the step you believe will take you to getting the outcome you are looking for. It’s an easy yes / no measurement.
But, at the end of the day, as we track progress, we keep the milestones because we believe they confirm whether or not we are on track. But we also have to be flexible enough to recognise when these milestones are not keeping us on track to get the ultimate results we want.
The results matter – but in the end, the results don’t actually matter! It’s what you do once you have them and look at them that really matters.
Looking at the whole picture: feelings, needs and the numbers
It’s really easy to measure our progress if we are just looking at external results, especially something like data. But most of the time, our personal goals include our needs and feelings.
For example, if I am looking at cutting back on eating too much, I can
- count calories
- control with portion sizes
- control by an internal measure of “fullness”
The first two are totally external to me, but unfortunately don’t tell me anything about how much energy I have after I’ve eaten or how the food makes me feel. For those, I need a lot more awareness and mindfulness.
But, how do I keep track of something this “subjective”? One way, is to note down for each meal how hungry you are before you start eating and then how full you are when you stop. This takes a lot of self-awareness, because you have to get in touch with your body, rather than with an external measure of calories or portion sizes.
Now, I have done this a lot over the past eighteen months, as I have learned to get in touch with my body and listen to the Inner Whispers of my hunger. It’s not perfect, because sometimes I am not listening! But it’s not because the system doesn’t work – but rather that I forget to look after myself.
If you have a look at the recording sheet that’s available here on my Coaching site, you could record your hunger and the emotional state you are in at each “eating opportunity”.
But ask yourself – why do I want to do this? What does self-love and self-compassion look like in my life when I truly honour and respect my body and what it has to tell me, rather than looking to an external measure of how much I should eat?
In the end, it’s about finding a way that reflects your desire to look after yourself as a lifestyle, rather than someone else’s idea of what a “diet” would look like for you.
On the other hand, if you are looking at another area of your life, like professional goals: how are these building the life that you want with you family and friends?
The opportunity to correct your course
The true lesson that happens when you track your results, recognise progress, is that you start correcting your course before you get too far off track. All choices, whether good or bad, have consequences. Some of those consequences may be unforeseen.
We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from those actions are controlled by principle.S. Covey
Do you have an awareness and a firm grasp of the consequences of your choices?
For me, for example, eating too much at a meal is does not simply have a result of me having to record on the recording sheet a feeling of being overfull and slightly bloated. It’s not simply taking longer to lose the last five pounds that I am battling to shed around my middle.
The real cost of eating too much at any meal (particularly lunch) is the lost productivity in the afternoon. It’s brain fog. Eating too much makes me tired, and then I need a nap in the afternoon to help digest the extra food.
Moreover, it whittles away at my self-esteem, because it’s a small silent message to me “you don’t really matter”. Something else controls you, rather than listening to your body and what your body needs. You cannot control this, the same way that other things in your life are beyond your control.
It’s small, but insidious.
All choices, habits and decisions – whether they are action or inaction – have results. If I don’t like those results, then I have a choice and the opportunity to make better choices and decisions.
Ultimately, success and reaching those goals is a consequence of my choices. Look at the results of your choices.
- Are your mile-markers clear?
- Do you know where your goals are taking you?
- Are you measuring your results and then correcting your course?
- What additional support do you need to grow in awareness of the significance of your results? (For example – for me, that’s an accountability buddy)
Life is a journey, not a destination
Results matter because they change and transform you. On the journey of life, as you learn the lessons that your results have to teach you, you change your behaviour if you want different results.
The results you have show who you are. They show you what you are really committed to.
If you don’t like your results – then you need to make different choices. And as you make different choices, you will be transformed in the process.
If you decide that you want to lose twenty pounds with a life-style change, rather than simply with a short-term diet (because you don’t want to put them back on again) – believe me that you will be a different person by the time you have finished losing the twenty pounds. Because as you are today, you won’t be able to keep the twenty pounds off – you would put them back on again!
So, the you that keeps the twenty pounds off – that’s a different version of you. One with upgrades!
The person that you have to become – that is self-aware and able to adjust their actions according to the results that they are getting – is much more powerful and in control of their life!
And this lesson serves for any part of life!
Typically, that’s why when you fix one area of your life – whether it be money, weight and fitness or professional development – you find out that other parts of your life naturally align. It’s not magic – it’s that you’ve grown and learned new skills!
The only diet that you should do is the one that works for you!
Results matter, but in the end, the results don’t matter
The results themselves are irrelevant. It’s what you choose to do with the results that matters! The fact that you take them seriously enough to modify your course – that’s what matters.
But the results don’t define who you are. They don’t make you a failure or a success. You make you a failure or a success with what you choose to do with those results! The results are never personal.
They are simply a metric. A learning tool.
The question is: what are you choosing to learn from the results you have?