We just spent 3 intensive days on the beach in Mexico working on goal setting for 2020.

It was not exactly on the beach. We set up our conference table inside a straw hut called a palapa that was situated at the end of a pier out over the water.

The pier was surrounded by schools of fish, needle fish, barracuda. It was a pretty magical and inspiring place to do this kind of deep work where there was a panoramic view of the beach to one side and the ocean stretching to the horizon

You can’t improve something you are not measuring. The business world is filled with performance metrics. Revenue, profitability, efficiency, return on investment, gross profit margin, inventory turns, cash flow, vacancy, delinquency rate, accounts receivable aging. The list goes on and on. We establish these measures to improve business performance.

It’s said that anything which is actively measured has a general tendency to improve. The simple act of measuring brings focus and attention to that metric. Sometimes businesses get off track by focusing on the wrong measures. You only need to look at companies like Sears, Macy’s and General Electric to see examples of companies that did a great job of optimizing the wrong metrics.

Today’s show is about setting expectations, not so much with others, but with yourself.

How often we as humans latch on to measures that we use to define our own sense of self worth. For some people their sense of worth is attached to their career, perhaps their title.

A lawyer who needs to make partner before the age of 40. For some it’s the house they live in, the car they drive. How much money they have in their bank account.

There are so many metrics that we unconsciously track on a daily and weekly basis.

Some people measure their weight, the number of hours they sleep, the number of steps taken each day, the number of likes on a social media post, the miles per gallon they get in their car, the percentage increase in their stock portfolio in the past year, the value of their home.

How many people wished you happy birthday on Facebook?

How much did your spouse spend on your birthday gift?

How big a discount did you get when you went shopping for holiday gifts?

Think about it. In each one of these measures, there is an entire story wrapped up in what a good number means.

More importantly, there’s an opportunity to feel bad about yourself if the number isn’t what you hope it to be.

What does a number actually mean? And who decided what a good number or a bad number means?

Do any of these measures have any real meaning that reflects truly upon your worth as a human being?

How many people measure the quality of the time spent with their children, the hours spent hugging a loved one, the time spent laughing per day?

So often people lose their way by focusing on measures that are not truly in alignment with the core values that will bring fulfillment. In the same way that companies can go bankrupt by optimizing the wrong measures, individuals can become emotionally bankrupt by focusing on the wrong measures.

Sometimes things get measured simply because they’re easy to measure, not because that measurement is truly important to improving my life. The fuel efficiency of my car is not going to fundamentally change the quality of my life for better or for worse. But it is easy to measure.

So many people find themselves climbing the ladder of success only to find when they get to the top that they leaned the ladder against the wrong wall.

I’m going to be taking three days in the next week to complete the work on my goals for 2020 and beyond. But before I can start working on my goals, I need to get clear on my values, what’s important to me. Once I have that clarity, setting the goals becomes obvious.