Touchdowns via First Downs

Don't shoot for a big goal in one Hail Mary pass. Get there incrementally.

“You don’t try to score a touchdown on every play. You get first downs that lead you to the end zone.” — Chris Hull

Progress is all about moving in increments.

Hitting a big goal or aspiration in one dramatic push is not the smart play. A first down is much easier than a touchdown. Slimming down one pound is much easier than ten pounds. Adding a few pounds to the barbell each workout is how you get strong.

I was recently re-introduced to lagging and leading measures by Chris Hull from Proof. They are perfect for representing goals and the intermediate steps you take to reach them. It’s all about what you measure.

A lagging measure is easy to determine but difficult to change. It’s the touchdown. For example, you want to lose ten pounds in the next month. Measuring your weight each day is easy. Actually losing the weight is not so easy!

A leading measure is difficult to determine but easy to change. It’s how you get the first downs leading to a touchdown. Losing ten pounds requires leading measures like eating fewer calories and more exercise... difficult to measure precisely but easy to adjust.

Your big goals are lagging measures while your intermediate steps are leading measures. It goes something like this:

  • Set a goal to lose ten pounds.

  • Take your first step by eating slightly smaller portions.

  • Take your next step by taking a short walk each morning.

Losing ten pounds is your lagging measure. The steps and associated habit formations are your leading measures. The lagging measure is the WHAT. The leading measures are the HOW.

I was first introduced to these concepts in business, but they apply just as well to personal goals. I find it a very useful perspective for removing emotion from the equation and getting analytical.

Enjoying the process means celebrating each first down on your way to a touchdown. Get analytical with your system today by adopting the concept of lagging and leading measures.