what you can control

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Bowled her first strike--without using the ramp.

Swam without her goggles.

Made a new friend at her first ever day camp.

Learned to double-dutch, jump rope on one foot, jump rope backward.

Spoke up when someone in the family was being left out.


By way of Cal Newport's work, I read recently about 4DX's lead measures and lag measures, and it gave language and clarity to something I've been thinking about for years. I feel bizarrely relieved. My planning, iterating, incrementalizing, time-blocking heart is soothed.

Put simply, a lead measure is the habit, the new commitment, the time you put in day after day, week after week. A lag measure is the outcome, the thing that is achieved.

That terminology--lead measure and lag measure--feels a little bit like jargon when I think about things like budgets and focus areas and mission statements. And it sounds totally clunky and weird and kind of off-putting when I think about my heart goals or plans with my friends or hopes for my child.

And yet, those words keep coming to mind in so many areas of my life. So I'm sticking with them. Thank you, Cal.

So often, we try to plan for the outcome. We track milestones, successes, noticeable achievements (and failures). In ourselves and in others, we notice the results.

Which is such an odd trick our brains play. Because the result is exactly the thing we can't control. It's exactly the thing that's best not controlled.

What we can plan for, what we have some agency over, is the lead measure--the habit, the time we put in.

We can commit to showing up for rehearsal every evening for six weeks straight. We can't control what the review will say.

We can commit to reaching out to one potential donor or patron every week for 52 weeks. We can't control how many of them will write a check.

We can commit to writing every morning for 15 minutes. We can't control when or how the book will come together.

We can commit to consistently inviting folks to gather on the third Thursday of every month. We can't control who will be able to show up.

We can commit to spending time with our kid at the pool. We can't control when she'll figure out how to tread water.

Anyone who has been in the rehearsal room or the board room with me knows that I love a good process. The process is where the joy and the struggle happen.

Maybe we're missing the mark on our celebrations. Let's celebrate 7 days in a row of moving your body or the 4 consecutive times this week you stayed calm when your child was freaking out.

Let's keep an eye on the lead measures, and let those lag measures work themselves out. Because that's usually what they're going to do anyway.

I love you, and I see you putting in the time. You are not alone.