Reality Check: What We Measure

Some things we can influence; many others we can’t. It can be surprisingly difficult to accurately identify where we have influence and where there is simply nothing we can do.
If you’ve been reading these columns regularly, then you know that I promote the idea that our perceptions and attitudes influence what we do.
Even our level of happiness can have an influence. Have you noticed that during happy times, you do things differently than during unhappy times? When happy, we may be more likely to interact with people, more open to opportunity or to act with more confidence. All of that can have an impact on our lives.
However, if you can’t control your level of happiness, then that might sound like a bunch of feel-good hokum. So here’s another suggestion; perhaps this one will strike you as more realistic.
The suggestion is: “Pay attention to what you measure.”
We often choose whether to measure something or not, and what we measure can make a difference. Thus, through choosing what to measure, we may be able to influence something that would otherwise seem out of our control.
For example, fitness industries have sold lots of gadgets by convincing people to measure the number of steps taken in a day. Does measuring change anything? You might think not, but let’s see. Do you ever tell your friends your count? Have you ever had a little competition? If you’re close to achieving a goal, do you push yourself a few extra steps to reach it?
The measurement doesn’t make you do anything differently. It’s just a number; meaningless unless you choose to give it meaning.
Think about other quantities we measure. Considering a diet? Where do you start? Often with a weight measurement. Measurement keeps us on track. Without it, we don’t know whether we’re making progress or headed for disappointment.
Many folks measure and keep track of time at work, or have a system to keep track of money. Again, the measurement may not directly change the situation, but it gets our attention.
We are all aware of ongoing measurements of virus cases. But there is plenty of additional interesting health information to measure. For example, it would be interesting to measure the number of virus recoveries. Different measurements convey different messages, don’t they?
What about other measurements? Would different measurements change our level of happiness?
How about measuring the number of times you laugh in a day? The number of kindnesses you experience? Or that you have extended? The number of pleasant interactions?
Does that sound silly? Maybe. But remember—we pay attention to what we measure. If we only measure negative events; if we only keep track of unhappy things, they take on greater importance for us.
If you have a perception that nothing good ever happens for you, then here’s my suggestion: Start counting the good. Don’t wait for huge good things, like lottery winnings or new babies. Count those small good things that make up the bulk of life. An enjoyable meal. A caring phone call. A warm bed. A loving look.
Habitual measurement of anything makes us more aware of it. If we make even a small change toward measuring positive things, they will assume more importance. What would you measure?

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