James Clear - entrepreneur, weightlifter, and travel photographer - once wrote a blog post on the value of measuring important areas of our life. It's a quick read and an important message that resonates with those of us who follow CrossFit as an observable, repeatable, and measurable training & fitness program. The concept can extend beyond your training, and into other areas of your life which you deem important.
The blog post is published here, and is included below in its entirety:
Someone walks into the gym, warms up, does a little bit of this exercise, does a little bit of that exercise, bounces around to a few machines, maybe hops on the treadmill, finishes their workout, and leaves the gym.
This isn’t a critique of their workout. In fact, it’s quite possible that they got a nice workout in. So, what is notable about this situation?
They didn’t measure anything. They didn’t track their workout. They didn’t count reps or weight or time or speed or any other metric. And so, they have no basis for knowing if they are making progress or not. Not tracking your progress is one of the six major mistakes I see people make in the gym.
But here’s the thing: We all have areas of life that we say are important to us, but that we aren’t measuring.
What We Measure, We Improve
Count something. Regardless of what one ultimately does in medicine—or outside of medicine, for that matter—one should be a scientist in this world. In the simplest terms, this means one should count something. … It doesn’t really matter what you count. You don’t need a research grant. The only requirement is that what you count should be interesting to you.
—Atul Gawande, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance
The things we measure are the things we improve. It is only through numbers and clear tracking that we have any idea if we are getting better or worse.
- When I measured how many pushups I did, I got stronger.
- When I tracked my reading habit of 20 pages per day, I read more books.
- When I recorded my values, I began living with more integrity.
Our lives are shaped by how we choose to spend our time and energy each day. Measuring can help us spend that time in better ways, more consistently.
It’s Not About the Result, It’s About Awareness
The trick is to realize that counting, measuring, and tracking is not about the result. It’s about the system, not the goal.
Measure from a place of curiosity. Measure to discover, to find out, to understand.
Measure from a place of self-awareness. Measure to get to know yourself better.
Measure to see if you are showing up. Measure to see if you’re actually spending time on the things that are important to you.
You Can’t Measure Everything
Critics will be quick to point out that you can’t measure everything. This is true.
- Love is important, but how do you measure it?
- Morality is important, but can it be quantified accurately?
- Finding meaning in our lives is essential, but how do you calculate it?
Furthermore, there are some things in life that don’t need to be measured. Some people just love working out for the sake of working out. Measuring every repetition might reduce the satisfaction and make it seem more like a job. There is nothing wrong with that. (As always, take the main idea and use it in a way that is best for you.)
Measurement won’t solve everything. It is not an ultimate answer to life. However, it is a way to track something critical: are you showing up in the areas that you say are important to you?
The Idea in Practice
But even for things that can’t be quantified, measuring can be helpful. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
You can’t measure love, but you can track different ways that you are showing up with love in your life:
- Send a digital love note to your partner each day (text, email, voicemail, tweet, etc.) and use the Seinfeld Strategy to keep track of your streak.
- Schedule one “Surprise Appreciation” each week where you write to a friend and thank them for something unexpected.
You can’t measure morality, but you can track if you’re thinking about it:
- Write down three values that are dear to you each morning.
- Keep a decision journal to track which decisions you make and whether or not they align with your ethics.
The things we measure are the things we improve. What are you measuring in your life?
"It's Not About The Result, It's About Awareness."
I love that part.
Well over half of our gym's community signed-up for the 2016 Open, a percentage much higher than any other CrossFit gym I know of... and it wasn't the first year that happened either. So I know we are a group of individuals who value, among other things, the process of measuring our progress. The beauty of the awareness that comes with measuring is the discovery of what you're capable of with consistent effort applied over long periods of time.
I, of course, would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to encourage every one of you Arena Ready members to PLEASE USE Beyond The Whiteboard to record your progress. We pay for it so you don't have to. Don't know what Beyond The Whiteboard is? Well then read this old post and then email/message us so we can add you to our group.
No, the BTWB system isn't perfect and it's app can sometimes be a bit difficult with some of our more creative workouts, but it is a powerful tool when used consistently (you can even see where you stand in popular workouts against the tens of thousands of other users in the world... even if privately to yourself after making your privacy settings as such). Make it a habit - get on it, and when 16.5 (AKA 14.5) pops up again you'll be able to see how much you've improved, and how far you can still progress.
WOD for 03-31-16:
"Oh Hell No, Helen"
4 Rounds For Time:
15 Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups
15 Hand Release Push-ups
15 Kettlebell Swings @ 70/53 lbs