How To Measure Success In Business Effectively With A Proven System (The Gap And The Gain)

Dan Sullivan
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Every entrepreneur wants to run a successful business. But what does success really mean, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

Well, that depends on how you measure success. Regardless of what you want to achieve in your business or personal life, the way you measure success will dictate whether you feel you’ve achieved your goals.

I’ve found that there are two primary ways to measure success in business and life, and I’ve developed a concept around them that I call “The Gap And The Gain.” Depending on which method you choose, you’ll either be in “The Gap,” where you’re never satisfied with your progress, or “The Gain,” where you feel satisfied, fulfilled, and happy with your progress.

If you want to learn how to measure success in business and life, you first need to understand how to embrace this simple concept. It will fundamentally change the way you think about success and progress in your life and business.

The Gap And The Gain.

When you set a goal in business or life, you need to have some way of measuring your progress to determine whether you’ve achieved the goal or not. I’ve found that there are two ways to measure success.

The first is measuring forward. This is when you have a picture of your ideal self (or business) in the future, and you strive to achieve it. You’re always trying to progress forward, with the end goal of reaching that ideal state.

But there’s a problem with this way of thinking. When you measure forward, you’ll always be disappointed when you check your progress. Even if you’ve made significant progress toward your goal, you’ll never feel truly successful because you and your business are not the ideal versions that you’ve always pictured.

Even if you’ve hit your goal and found success in your business or life, you’ll still feel the same as you did when you started because that ideal will always be unattainable. You become more critical of yourself, you lose confidence, you become disappointed, and you feel as if there’s no way you’ll ever achieve the level of success you desire. For business owners, this can quickly spread to the rest of their team.

When you think this way, you’ll always be in “The Gap.” So, what’s the alternative?

The alternative is measuring backward. With this method, you simply look back at where you started and measure how far you’ve come in your business or life. Even if you haven’t achieved your goal, you’ll still be a lot further ahead than when you started.

When you measure backward, you increase your confidence, energy, and satisfaction. You recognize the new capabilities you’ve developed and the success you’ve already achieved.

This method works for both business and personal success. It’s a simple mindset shift that many have equated to “flipping a light switch in your brain,” as it turns success into something you’re constantly achieving rather than something that’s always just out of reach.

If you’re consistently unhappy with the success you’ve achieved in your business or personal life, you might be in The Gap. Check out my free ebook The Gap And The Gain to learn how to get out of The Gap and embrace this important mindset.

Ideals are unattainable.

My best piece of advice for anyone who’s interested in learning how to measure success in business and life is to recognize when you’re measuring your success against an ideal—and then stop doing it!

An ideal can be something you’ve created for yourself or one that’s imposed upon you by society, but it’s always the same—a vision of future success that is unattainable.

There are three words that consistently appear when people are focused on ideals: could, should, and would. If you find yourself thinking that you “could have done better,” that you “should have made more money,” or that you “would have achieved more if … “—you’re comparing yourself to an external ideal. You’re trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, which is the worst way to measure success.

Ideals are like the horizon. You can see the horizon—you can drive toward it, and it will point you in the right direction. But nobody ever arrives at the horizon. Even if you were to arrive at the exact point you were envisioning on the horizon, you’d never know because it would feel just like where you were before.

Just like a horizon, you’ll never know when you’ve hit an ideal because you’ll always feel the same as you did when you started. And that’s why learning how to measure success is so important for business owners. When you understand how to measure backward, you’ll always be making consistent progress in your business and everywhere else in your life. If you measure forward, you’ll always feel the same as when you started.

Taking action today.

If you feel like you’re currently in The Gap, you’re probably already well on your way to having that “light bulb moment.” Just by reading this post, you’ve already learned how to measure success in business and life the right way. The key is to shift your mindset from measuring forward to measuring backward.

I like to think of The Gap And The Gain as an “Intellectual Shortcut.” If you’re in The Gap, you’ve simply been mismeasuring. Measuring backward will show you how to recognize the progress you’ve already made.

So, how can you make this shift in your business and life? Here’s one thing you can do right now to start shifting your thinking.

Whatever goal you’re striving for in your business or personal life, go back and identify three experiences you’ve had where you’ve already done the thing you’re shooting for in some capacity. Identify the areas where you’ve already made progress in your business and life.

This will help you begin to appreciate your past experiences and all the progress you’ve made up to this point. You’re only capable of what you’re doing now because of your past experiences—and that will turn into further progress in the future, just as it has in the past.

Start with the past, and you’ll be happy.

This is bigger than you.

If you’re unhappy with yourself or your business because you’re measuring your achievements against the ideal, you’ll also do it for other people’s achievements. You’ll never praise them or acknowledge the progress they’ve made. They’ll feel oppressed because you’re never impressed!

So one added bonus of The Gap And The Gain is that it will affect everyone else in your life and business. It rewires your brain to focus on your past progress and wins, which will help you recognize the success of those around you. It will make you a more positive, optimistic person.

As a business owner, you can teach this concept to your team members to develop a culture of constant progress. It will lead to increased productivity, team satisfaction, and an optimistic outlook for everyone in your business.