Be careful what you measure…

Occasionally, I write something worth revisiting. At this time of year when we look at our accomplishments and prepare to make resolutions, it might be helpful to consider what accomplishments we measure. This was originally written in June 2004, but is still applicable today.

Seth Godin has written an excellent post, The Curse of Great Expectations, which may bring you to a screeching halt in your headlong pursuit of perfection.

His opening line, I can benchmark everything now and his conclusion, The problem with benchmarking is that nothing but continuous improvement (except maybe spectacular results) satisfies very much really got me thinking. It is a true statement, but it depends very much on what you are measuring.

First of all, a benchmark
is a standard by which something can be measured or judged. Measuring
performance in the physical universe, whether it is miles run, wealth
accumulated, or performance ranking in sports or work, shows how you
are doing with regard to earlier efforts by yourself of others.

If you judge your worth by how well you perform physical activity,
you will be confronted with the inexcapable fact that the peak of
physical activity comes early in life and is long gone by the time you
attain judgement.

If you judge your worth by your financial success, you put yourself
in a terrible trap, because the occupations that pay the most money do
not always provide a sense of self-worth. The decisions you make can
diminish you spiritually and degrade you beyond belief.

If you judge your life by the number of friends you have and the
people you have helping, you may obtain a better picture of
your true worth.

This is a benchmark of your connections to society and
is also a measure of your level of contribution to the betterment of
civilization. Note that I said "have" and "helping". This is a dynamic
measure of worth, not an archive of memories.

I think if you measure your life by your ability to contribute to
others, you will find that you can achieve continuous improvement over
a very long period of time.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this topic.


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