Seeing the Forest: The Importance of Metrics in Preventing Blindness in Self Improvement

I’m approaching almost 2 years of recording my habits with the SRHI.

One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s really difficult to see how much I have improved when I’m constantly working on these tasks. In the midst of all this detailed tracking, it’s easy to lose track of the larger growth. You can’t see the forest for the trees.

When you can’t see the big picture, you feel like you’re in a never ending slog, where no matter how hard you try, you cannot prevail. And that can cast a long shadow on the entire endeavor. And that shadow is a really bad thing because the emotional equilibrium is a huge part of long term habit formation.

The truth is that every foot gained is a success. And that’s where good metrics come in. A metric allows you to actually consistently prove to yourself that you are making progress. And it is something I feel we are all horrendously bad at.

I know that the best metric tool for meditation is a stop watch. Yet it took me forever to actually obtain one. I know that the best metric for fat loss is regular measurements of my body. But I constantly avoid doing it.

I’ve talked to several people about this and it seems to be a constant problem when people start a new behavior. I mentioned this in a previous post (Day 651 & The Little Details Make all the Difference - Metrics and Implementation Intention) where I extract a maxim:

Tools and data pertaining to metrics are invaluable to self improvement, but are almost always forgotten

But it’s more than that. I just talked to Lydia and she described how she decided this week to start using a stop watch to counteract stalled progress in meditation. Instead she just hasn’t meditated this week.

There’s something in us that doesn’t just overlook metrics - we go out of our way to deliberately NOT do it.

Counteracting this strong subconscious protocol requires us to bounce back hard.

I remember when I first started this project it was so difficult to keep track of my habits - I had to force myself to record them, and that one habit managed to make a world of difference. Perhaps a similar protocol is required for metrics.

My reworked maxim for metrics is now:

Tools and data pertaining to metrics are invaluable to self improvement, but are almost always willfully omitted.