What if I told you that your hair looks great today? You might let out a simple “thank you” and a slight smile and go about the rest of your day.
Now, what if instead, I told you that your hair looks hideous today? Uh-oh.
If you’re like most people, you’ll be chewing on it for the rest of the day — possibly even longer.
What’s wrong here?
Our brains are continually taking self-measurements without us even realizing. And when we don’t mindfully direct them, we make inaccurate assumptions about our current condition.
As in the case above, one misaligned measurement (me telling you your hair sucks) can make you overlook all the other relevant metrics — not to mention spike your stress levels and disrupt your mood and behavior.
Think about the things we measure every day:
- Phone’s charge
- Gas tank
- Bank account balance
Now, what would happen if we ignored these measurements?
- A dead phone when we need it the most (which is always)
- Find yourself chilling on the side of the road waiting for AAA
- A gross, flat, burnt birthday cake
- Overdraft fees upon overdraft fees
- Inability to function in human society
Likewise, a poor self-measurement system could cause pain, anxiety, stagnation, financial trouble, ill health, and many other shoddy life conditions.
How many times have you beaten yourself up today for doing or saying something you wish you hadn’t?
Now how many times today have you congratulated yourself for the small things you did well, such as standing up for yourself to the boss, finishing off a stubborn task, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator?
We are doing great things every day, but we aren’t acknowledging many of them. And if we are, it’s usually just for a quick pat on the back and forgotten moments later.
The point in measuring things is so you can improve on them, not make yourself suffer.
If you feel like your self-measurement system is out of whack, let’s find out how to get it back in order!
1. Change the reason you measure
Think about your daily personal measurements — do they offer useful feedback, or are they just ego aggressors?
Most people’s measurement system is based on judgment. They rate their performance without actually reviewing it.
This is how you end up selling yourself short.
What we need to do is shift our reason for measuring from judgment based to knowledge-based.
Knowledge will give us insights into how we can move closer to our personal growth goals. Overgeneralized assumptions of judgment do the opposite.
If you ever make statements such as:
- “I always screw everything up”
- “I always say the wrong things”
- “I’m so bad with money”
- “I forget everybody’s name”
- “I can never stick to anything”
…then you are missing out on valuable feedback and setting yourself up for failure.
Next time you judge yourself, stop and ask yourself these questions:
- Is this statement 100% accurate?
- If not, why did I think it was?
- What triggered me to say this?
- How can I prevent that trigger?
- Is this an ongoing issue?
- How can I interrupt this pattern?
By asking these questions, you allow your measurement system to provide solutions instead of shame.
2. Choose the right metrics
If you know me, you know I’m big into weightlifting. But I’m naturally a skinny dude, so to gain more muscle, I made the number of weight gainer shakes I drank per day as one of my metrics. I shot for three, and I measured every day.
After a couple of weeks, I found that I stuck to the process pretty well. I felt great about it! That is, until I looked down at my tummy. Um… not exactly what I was going for.
This made me realize that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the process we end up attracting unwanted results.
I see this all the time with people who, without realizing, use their task lists as a metric for their productivity. They kill it every day — knocking off tasks left and right — yet find themselves no closer to their personal growth goals.
We can complete a million trivial tasks and pretend we’re productive, but if we aren’t progressing and getting results, what the heck are we doing?
Don’t get me wrong, developing rituals is a necessary part of achievement. But you must pay attention to where those rituals are taking you. If they aren’t getting you closer to your goals, you may need to choose a different standard of measurement.
3. Make your personal growth goals concrete
To be more confident is NOT concrete. To be more mindful is NOT concrete. To have more money is NOT concrete.
Here’s a dollar. You now have more money and thus reached your goal. Congratulations.
Oh, that’s not what you meant?
When we aren’t explicit with what our desired result looks like, how could we ever carry out a measurement system to help us achieve it?
Here are three tips to create more concrete personal growth goals:
- Figure out exactly what your goal means — what’s the literal definition?
- Make your goal a specific event or stage in your development
- Set up a definite date you intend to achieve your goal by
The more you’re able to realize what personal growth means to you, the easier it will be to apply the specific measurements needed to ensure consistent progress.
Prepare for transformation
When you improve your self-measurement system — and consistently use it to track the key metrics of your personal growth goals — you will alter your entire outlook on your daily performance.
Valuable information will pop up out of nowhere. “Aha,” moments will become much more frequent. And most importantly, you will begin to see yourself as the admirable, thriving, awesome human being you are.
And the next time somebody tells you your hair sucks, you can confidently thank them for their feedback. Onward.