AND Know What You Measure

January 11th, 2015

A frigid air mass covered a large portion of the northern and central states of the US last week. I looked out the window on a day where the weather reports indicated below zero temperatures without the wind chill effects and double digit below zero temperatures with the wind chill factor considered.

At low tide, a considerable swath of sand was covered with ice from where the surf had been when the tide was high. The steam came off the ocean and headed straight up to the clouds, another signal of frigid temperatures. And then I read the outdoor thermometer, placed directly in the path of the sun’s rays. It read 82 degrees!

And the number on the thermometer got me thinking about whether we know what we measure. So often today the pressure is to count and measure in order to validate. The focus on data is often narrowly defined by a focus on numbers. And as my thermometer showed, the number may have accurately measured the warmth of the sun. It clearly did not measure the actual outdoor temperature.

How often do we abandon what we know in our hearts—a kind of data to which we often give short shrift—because someone requires numbers to validate what we know? When you know in your gut whether something you are considering is a decision aligned with what you truly know and you override it because the world of shoulds in your head says otherwise, do you know what you are measuring?

How often do we make decisions against our own wisdom about what is healthy for us in the moment because we are trying to keep peace or please others? If you want to measure the value of your life by levels of joy, then however many and which other people are pleased with your decision are irrelevant. If you want to measure the value of your life in terms of the number of people who are happy with you and your decisions at any given moment (because once the decisions is over, the happiness may disappear unless the next decision is made to keep them happy), then your ability to ignore the wisdom of your heart in service to others’ approval increases.

Any measure can tell a story. Stories are creations of our own making. The story we tell will be validated by whatever measures we choose to use to justify our choices. The good news is that we can convince ourselves of whatever we want and dismiss anything we choose to avoid by using whatever measures validate the story we choose to tell.

So, if you know what you truly stand for, value, and choose to invest in, let the clarity of that knowing inform what you measure. Otherwise, it is very easy to get lost in allowing measures to drive our choices in ways that tell a story that is less than true.

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