260. Can't Improve What Is Not Measured

260. Can't Improve What Is Not Measured

I heard a story of a well-known writer who told his pro golfer friend, “I decided not to keep score anymore in golf because I just want to enjoy the game.” The friend said, “Oh, you mean you decided not to improve.”

Life is enjoyable when there is progress. I am not just talking about external, visible progress. Even when there is a lack of anything visible, we can sense internal progress, such as character change, improving patience, or new insight.

Bible is not shy about giving specific numbers. For example, it says that the Jerusalem church started with “3000” converts and God “daily” added more numbers to church. That is a clear measurement of progress.

Reading is essential because it inspires my creative work and provides a broader perspective to make good decisions. So, a few years ago, I decided to track how many books I read every year. At first, I feared wasting my time because I believed I was reading enough books. But once I numbered how many books I read a year, I was shocked how lower it was from my estimation. So I set a goal to read a certain number of books each year (based on the average number of books CEOs read in a year), and I made consistent progress since tracking it. Even when I don’t reach the goal, I know how to improve it. I found myself picking up a book more frequently because I knew I would be making progress toward my goal. And contrary to what I anticipated, it made me enjoy reading more, not less.

So if you are feeling demotivated or helpless, start making progress in “something” that is important to you. It doesn’t need to be big, like slimming down to a certain weight or hitting PR at your gym. Start small. And start tracking the progress to improve.

Some people don’t like to track anything because they want to be free and enjoy life. Indeed, we cannot reduce our life to metrics and progress. And not all metrics of life are worth improving. But measurable progress is meaningful because God created us to be motivated to see what we do today accomplish something later. Metrics are not everything, but it is hard to improve anything without them.