Why are we so obsessed with numbers?
“I want to make $100,000 salary by the time I’m 50 years old.”
“Oh my goodness – I’m going to be 30! 40! 50!” etc.
“I need to get a 95 on this test.”
“I don’t have this much money in my bank account.”
“My company didn’t meet our numbers on the stock market so our stock’s going down.”
“I need to be a size 6 in order to be happy.”
“I need to lose 40 pounds.”
“What do you mean I only lost .2 of those pounds?”
Things are too high. Too low. Too much. Too heavy. Blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, salary, profits, age – we are obsessed with the almighty number.
Some numbers are good ones. Maybe when we walk 4 miles each day in 70 minutes that next week that we should aim for doing it in an hour. We should have 6-8 glasses of liquid and a few servings of lean proteins to best nourish our bodies. We were on plan for 3 straight days.
Numbers may measure things, but they do not measure us. We’re more than facts and figures and statistics. What we don’t seem to measure is the effort it takes to get to any of those numbers. And really, people, that’s what you need to measure. Your goals must be in line with your priorities. If a certain salary is your priority, then why aren’t you getting your education, job history, resume and accomplishments together? If a size 6 is the ultimate priority, then what are you doing eating the 3rd piece of chocolate cake?
I’m not judging the cake. In fact, I’m all for the cake. And the bacon. And the wine. But the goal isn’t the number – the goal is the behavior. It takes behaviors to accomplish the numbers. If I want to stay the size I am, I can’t live on cake, bacon and wine. I have to have them as treats instead of staples. It’s a choice that’s based on the priority. And if you think losing weight is hard – and it is!! – think about maintaining. Now all that focus on the negative number can’t be there. We only have felt successful in the loss so does that mean we are we no longer successful? What if that’s all we know how to do? What if NOT focusing on the number actually panics us?
If I want to be happy, I have to realize that numbers don’t do it. I can be happy in a size 6 or 16. I can be happy with money in the bank or without. I can be happy at age 30, 40, 50, etc. I can also be miserable if I expect that bank account balance to be the cause of my happiness, or the weight loss be the reason for my happiness. Maybe the weight loss caused a compliment, or a new dress to fit right, or a bit more confidence in myself. THAT is what can help my happiness. On the flip side, if I gained weight, does that bum me out and make me a failure? It bums me out – yes. But does it make me a failure? NO. Did I know what I did? Did I learn from it? Again, measuring the behaviors can give me more information. Did I eat too much, have too much salt, get a bit over served with the wine? (More numbers.) Happy has very little to do with the number. Did you know that study after study shows that older people are happier. Why is that? Well, a lot of the pressure is off. The pressure they put on themselves with all those numbers.
I am aware that we cannot escape all the numbers. We need to pay bills. We can’t buy the $100 dress if we don’t have the $100. (Well, we shouldn’t.) We must pay our mortgage so that we keep our house. We must buy gas in order to drive our cars. Sometimes the numbers are written in our performance measures: Must make 1,000 widgets in order to keep my job. Ten mangos for $10 is a good deal. So I’m well aware that we need to be responsible to the important numbers in our lives. Looking at the why makes it easy to do. (I need to save money, have a house, get to work to keep my job, and so forth.)
Numbers are everywhere. And I realize how important they are. I also realize how unimportant they are. Know that if we were graded on our life, it wouldn’t be how rich we are or how poor we are or how much we weighed.
If we dare to take the power away from the numbers, the numbers will no longer grip a hold on us and make us miserable. You’re more than a digit.