Think of your numbers. Your bank balance–let’s start with that. How much money, down to the cent, do you have in your bank account at this moment? How much did you spend yesterday?
What about your weight? When considering how much you weigh, what comes up for you?
Calories–how many calories do you think you’ve ingested over the course of the day so far?
Friends–real human people in your network. Colleagues. Friends on social media. Do you have a clear idea of that? How many holiday cards to buy and send out? Is it 15? 150?
Now think of the weather today. What’s the temperature? Or your favorite athlete. What are their stats? If you’re like most people, you can grasp the answers to the day’s temperature or your favorite athlete’s stats much more quickly and neutrally than you can recall your weight or wealth.
Money, food and nutrition, physical stamina, and our circle of relationships are some of the most basic elements that shape our lives. And yet, we “fog up” around these numbers. Why is that?
The reason is, we tend to see numbers as scores, rather than as metrics. Scores are measures of outcomes. There’s a judgement baked in to scoring, around the idea of “Are we doing well, or doing poorly?” for example, the question, “What’s the score?” is a question that means, “How’s it going?”
We score quality, we score mutual funds, we score games. Scoring is a choice that we decide to make, in order to reduce the cognitive work required to determine whether activity is “good” (that is, driving the results we want) or “bad” (that is, driving the results we don’t want). Scoring is about desire, and emotion can belong there.
Metrics are simply units of measurement. They’re completely neutral units of information that have been designed to reduce the cognitive work required to measure change over time. Metrics are about learning, study, and gaining a close understanding about what’s going on.
Most of the time, we conflate scores with metrics when it comes to our personal lives. Money up is “good”, money down is “bad,” weight gain is “bad,” weight loss is “good,” more friends are “good,” fewer friends are “bad.” Bigger house and property is “good,” small property is “bad.”
Where did we inherit these scoring systems? Do they actually serve to make our lives better?
The answer is no. Taking a scoring approach to the most personal aspects of our lives is a great way to make you feel “less than” in a big way. Why? Because there’s always going to be a bigger fish. Someone out there is always going to be richer, fitter, more connected than you are. Someone out there is always going to be poorer, less fit, and less connected than you are. It’s the state of this life that we all have unequal shares.
Perhaps paradoxically, the only way out of scoring your life is to measure your life. For example, the only way to feel powerful with money is to really study your spending and earning habits–and even how you spend time to make money. Another example: The only way to really feel like you’re making clear and deliberate choices around nutrition is to actually study calories so you can study your own intake, output and weight.
There’s really no way out but through–and we cost ourselves the opportunity to make real changes in our lives when we fog up about these numbers.
So, allow yourself to get into metrics, not scores. Make it a goal to understand via measurement, rather than judge via measurement. Make tools like Noom and Mint your friends. Or read the book ‘Your Money or Your Life,’ and really get to know what time and income and spending really mean for you.
There is freedom in looking closer. So don’t be afraid of what you may find in the mirror–take a deep breath, be bold, and commit to measurement.