Growth is one of the 6 Critical Needs. Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance and Connection are needed for basic survival. But fulfillment requires Growth and Contribution. Everyone tries in some way to take action that betters their lives. These actions make us grow whether it’s finding a better job or meeting that person we always wanted to meet. We take classes and seminars. We read books. But sometimes, it seems that no matter how much effort we expend, we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.
That’s because we measure growth with 3 different measuring sticks and when you apply the wrong measuring stick to the endeavor in which you’re trying to grow, you feel stuck.
3 Ways We Measure Growth
More. Sooner. Easier.
If you ask most people whether they want more of the good things in their lives or less. They would choose more. Who wouldn’t want more close friends or a raise or more time to do things they enjoy? If you ask whether someone would want those things now or five years from now, most would choose now. If you ask them if whether they could get everything they wanted by working either 2 hours a day or 12 hours a day, most would choose the easier two hours a day. We are ingrained to want more over less, sooner rather than later and easier instead of harder.
Because these three things are so ingrained in our nature, it’s also how we unconsciously measure growth.
For example, when you first started learning to read, it was difficult. As you read more, reading became easier. Easier is how we measure growth when we learn skills. Playing guitar becomes easier. Your new job gets easier after that initial learning curve. If something got easier to do, we feel like we’re growing because we got better at it.
We also are ingrained to measure by having more of something. You exercise and lose more weight or you are able to run for more time or more speed. You learn social skills and get more friends or you get a better job and make more money. Or you quit your job and move to foreign beach so you have more time. When we get more in the areas of our highest value, we feel our lives are growing.
Sooner is how we measure growth in the areas we don’t enjoy. If you think you have an anger issue or a depression issue, you feel like your growing if you’ve learned methodologies that get you out of those negative states faster. If your job is boring or housework is monotonous then growth happens when you develop a system that lets you get it done sooner without the quality being affected to the point it would bring about negative consequences.
Why Better Isn’t a Good Measurement
What about quality? Quality is value-based and subjective and changes as our values change. You can objectively measure more, sooner and easier. Quality gets derived from some combination of those three. Some people spend more money to achieve quality, buy a bigger house or take a more expensive vacation. Some people consider something is of higher value if it saves them time and makes their life easier.
However, quality is much harder to apply to intangibles. If someone said, you can have a million dollars two ways. Here’s the winning numbers to this weeks lotto or here’s the business plan to turn your passion into a million dollars. Most would choose the lotto numbers. Yes, the maybe the quality of the million dollars would be better if you earned it yourself. However, most people would just choose the Easier and Sooner lotto numbers and then do their passion for fun.
Using the Right Measurements
Using the wrong measurement gets us stuck. That often happens with careers and finances. We make more money, but it seems like were stuck in a rat race. It seems like we’re growing because we’re making more now then we were 5 years ago. Or we get more responsibility and that makes us feel important because more people need us. However, some people reach a certain point where they plateau, where they can’t take on any more without feeling like their life will fall apart. They burn out. They stop growing in that area.
However, if you decide to use Easier or Sooner rather than More as the measurement for finances. What if I can make the same amount now, but working only part-time instead of full time? What if I can feel just as fulfilled but doing some type of work that’s easier and less stressful? Using those measurements leads us to a different way of thinking and growing.
In relationships, we often use More and Easier as our measurement which sometimes leads to unintended consequences. You meet someone. You click. Everything seems so easy, the conversation, the connection, as if you had always known each other. Then the honeymoon phase is over. Life intrudes. The new person get busier or you have a value conflict. Schedules become harder to sync. You don’t feel like your friendship is growing because you don’t see them as often. Certain measurements will plateau in certain areas and using those measurements as your basis stall the area you want to grow in. In relationships, the other person only has so much time so at a certain point, you can’t get more time. There’s will always be value conflicts so it’s not always going to be easy.
But what if you focus on Sooner. What if you learn ways to get connected as soon as you see each? What if you find ways to resolve difference and challenges sooner?
The Right Measurement at the Right Time
Another way we get stuck is using the wrong measurement at the wrong time. Sometimes how we started measuring something needs to change after we’ve been doing it for a while.
If you are recently unemployed, growth is often measured by Easier. Finding a job that is close to what you do you did before would make your life easier. Finding a job that pays close to what you made before is would make living easier. However, when the unemployment runs out, you have to make the switch from Easier to More. Anything more than zero dollars is better, at least for the time being.
Maybe, you started out trying to lose weight and your measurement is More. More weight loss equals growth to you. However, you will eventually plateau. After a certain point, you won’t be dropping body fat as fast as you were. If you keep using More as your measurement, then you become less motivated because you see less results. However, if you switch your measurement to Sooner–how quickly you can get that endorphin rush from running, or Easier–how much more effortlessly you can run a mile or climb a mountain, you continue seeing growth.
Over the years, I’ve often had to change the way I started measuring. I started out as an introvert with five friends. Then they went to college and moved away. Growth was learning how to make more friends and having an easier time getting invited to activities. Now I’m in my forties. My friends have children and lives and less disposable time. When I see them, it about finding how to reconnect faster and start talking about the important part of our lives sooner and sometimes that’s not easy. That’s why I’ve been studying so much of Brene Brown’s research.
In my career, my initial measurement was more. If I made more money and enjoyed my work more than I did 5 years ago, then I was growing. But then I realized that what I enjoyed more than work is time with my family. So growth for me now in the area of finance is Easier. How do I make what I’m making now working half my hours or a quarter my hours? So for a decade I’ve been slowly transitioning from the E-Quadrant (Employment) to the I-Quadrant (Investment). For me, growth is measured by working less for the same income level and not more.
From Measurement to Results
When you change your method of measurement you change your focus. When you change your focus, you change your actions. Different actions will produce different results.
For example, I currently work a day job as a programmer. If I wanted to make more money, I’d ask my company to pay for my certifications. I would look for a higher paying job. However, I want Easier money. This means studying investments so my money is working when I’m not working. I’m reading Seth Godin instead of programming books. I’m taking completely different actions because I’m measuring differently.
The areas where I feel I’m stuck are where I’m trying to switch my measurements. Parenting is one of them. I’ve been measuring by Easier. If my kids got their room clean or if they did well with classes or friends. That only works if they don’t question what you tell them. I don’t want to raise kids that don’t question authority which means I can measure by Easier.
Now I’m trying to switch to More, more time with them, more new experiences. So it means re-arranging my schedule, spending time with them even when I’m tired. I’m looking for activities to do with them that are new and challenging. It’s not going to be More forever because they’ll be teenagers eventually and they’ll have other people they would rather spend time with. When that happens, I’ll switch to a different measurement which will shift my focus which lead me to take different actions.
What Can Be Measured Can Be Managed
Sometime life gets away from us. We get a bit lost. Maybe, you’re graduating high school and you don’t know what to study. Maybe you’re sick of the job you’ve been working at for the last 10 years but feel like you’re stuck. Maybe, you’re relationship isn’t what it once was and you don’t talk as much or the kids make you tired all the time. Measuring gives us a tangible starting point.
If you don’t know what you want to study as a career at university, start by determining how you measured your career success as a student. If you measure it by More like more fulfillment, you have to figure out what’s fulfilling you now. What do you do that makes you feel fulfilled? What is it about that activity that makes you feel fulfilled? What jobs exist that will pay you to do something that has the qualities of the activity that currently makes you feel fulfilled?
Measurement allows us an objective view of our progress. It gets us out of our heads into the real world where we have tangible proof that we are creating. Saying you want to write a book doesn’t get you anywhere without measurement. If you measure with More, then maybe yesterday, you wrote 100 words to your novel and today you have 500 words. That’s tangle proof that you created 400 more words that didn’t exist yesterday. If you measure with Sooner, maybe yesterday you had to stare at the blank sheet of paper for an hour before you could type anything. Then you read a book that told you to just start typing anything. So you did and today you started typing right away. Even if you could only use a paragraph of what you wrote, you became a writer an hour sooner than you were the day before.
Unless you measure what it is you’re trying to achieve, you can’t tell if you’re progressing.