The Double-Edged Sword Of Measurement

“You get what you measure.” This is great news for anyone wanting to lose weight or learn a new skill—just start measuring. Measurement provides the information needed to improve, as well as subconsciously invoking positive results.

The problem with measurement is that it leads us to focus our lives on those things that are easiest to measure. And just because something is easier to measure doesn’t means it’s more important.

One of the reasons people become workaholics is because measuring success in a career is so straightforward—salary, job title and promotions all make for easy measurements. Compare that with developing relationships, building a family or raising good kids. Relationships with family and friends are going to be the most important sources of happiness in our lives, yet investing time and energy into relationships doesn’t come with metrics to easily gauge your success. There are no spouse promotions or ladders to climb with your kids.

The Double-Edged Sword Of Measurement

It seems to me that there is actually a correlation between how hard something is to measure and how important that thing is to be happy. The depressing part of the above chart is when you align it with where most of our time goes. We spend much more time on the things that can be measured, and ultimately less important for personal happiness . It makes sense: We are hardwired to form habits around rewarding activity. When we accomplish a goal or taste the sweet fruit of success, it’s tempting to keep pushing the same levers over and over again, investing every extra hour of time or ounce of energy in whatever activity yields the clearest and most immediate evidence that we’ve achieved something.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t create ways to measure your commitment to raise a family or have a happy marriage. Just because the metrics for focusing on relationships are a little more abstract doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You just need to choose actions that are measurable and keep track of your progress

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