As I have traveled the journey of Self-Creation, I’ve had to constantly be on the lookout for ways in which Life will conspire to knock me off course. There is no shortage of events that can (and will) crop up to thwart my best efforts. Constant vigilance is paramount.
One way I have found to mitigate the effects of events negatively affecting me is through what I call the “3M Formula”. In short, it stands for Mark, Measure, and Manage.
If you want to make progress in any area of your life, you first need a baseline read on where you are currently. If you want get fit, then marking where your starting weight or body fat percentage is, is a good idea. If you want to build wealth then marking things like your current net worth, income, or debt levels would be useful to know.
Marking your initial starting point gives you a good reference point from which to begin and helps you stay on target as you progress (or do not progress) at any given time. If you don’t know where you started then you won’t know how far you’ve come.
Recently my wife was lamenting that she hadn’t lost any weight despite having been eating well and exercising. I asked her where she started weight-wise and she replied, “I don’t know, I didn’t weigh myself before I started.” The fact is, she probably had lost some weight (and if you know my wife you know that she really doesn’t have any weight to lose anyway), but because she hadn’t marked her starting point had no idea if she had made any progress at all.
The second thing marking your starting point does is help you pinpoint whether your tactics are actually working or not. If you are making progress towards your stated self, then great, no changes are necessary. If you are not, however, then some adjustments to your tactics may be in order.
As you progress, you will want to periodically stop and measure that progress or lack thereof. As Peter Drucker is attributed to saying, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Whether that is true in every case is the subject of some debate, but it is true that the things we give our attention are what get our resources (both time and energy).
For me personally, I know that if I am going to weigh in on Monday morning, then it makes me think twice about overeating on the weekend. Likewise with spending money. I know that if I want to pay my debt down by a certain date, then I need to measure my spending with a budget so I can stay on track to hitting my goal.
Keep in mind that there are multiple ways to measure the same thing. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, the measuring your weight loss is one way. Another way would maybe be to measure body fat percentage or how fast you can run a mile.
Measuring progress is how we get feedback on our systems and whether they are working or not. Without that feedback we could never manage our efforts properly to keep (or begin) making progress in the first place. That’s where Manage comes into play.
Every action we take (or don’t take) is an opportunity to get feedback on the results of that action.
Feedback is a necessary component to progress, but even more importantly, it’s what we do with that feedback. If you have marked where you’re at, measured how you are doing, found that you aren’t making the progress you had hoped for, but then don’t make any adjustments to your plan, then you are never going to make any progress towards creating your true self.
When starting any attempt at change, you essentially have two components: strategy and tactics (whether you realize it or not…after all, no strategy is still a strategy).
The strategy is the overarching plan that tells you where you want to go. The tactics are how you are going to get there.
For the health example, your strategy might be to achieve a certain health goal for your age and gender. You may write your strategy out in a statement like this, “I will live a life free from pain, at a healthy weight of 160lbs, a body fat percentage of 14%, and normal ranges for cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. through healthy eating and daily exercise.”
That’s your strategy: A healthy life through diet and exercise.
Your tactics may include things like, eating a low carb/high fat diet, intermittent fasting, strength training twice a week, running a mile every morning, and so on. Those are the things you are going to do to put your strategy into action.
As you begin to implement your plans you may (meaning you absolutely will) run into challenges along the way. The tendency for a lot of people is to give up on the strategy instead of altering the tactics. Maybe you have hit a plateau and in frustration decide that maybe you just weren’t meant to live a healthy life. So you give up on the strategy itself.
This is a crucial mistake. It is more likely that you have simply plateaued because your body is adjusting to this new information it is getting (i.e. you have lost some weight and your body is regulating itself to make sure it isn’t because food is scarce) and you just need time for that adjustment to take place.
It could be that you got to your new weight by eating fewer than 75 carbs per day and you simply need to adjust your intake to only 50 carbs per day. But see, that is a tactical component to your overall strategy, not the strategy itself. Your strategy is still to live a healthy life through diet and exercise…it’s how you are effecting that strategy through tactics that needs adjustment.
In other words, don’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Keep your eye on the strategy and adjust accordingly based on feedback you are getting.
The 3M Formula is a simple, yet very effective way to keep yourself on track and moving towards a life that you are designing intentionally. Use it to free yourself from any chains you may find yourself in and make the changes you know you need (and want) to make.