Since we are, in large part, what we measure, that means numbers matter. Revenues, costs, and profits. Calories, carbs, and pounds. Heart rate, blood pressure, and VO2 max.
Not just the raw numbers, though -- the improvement, or lack thereof.
Hold that thought.
I use the Zwift app for indoor cycling. While the social aspect isn't something I care about, I like the routes, like the challenges, and really like the real-time cadence, watts, and heart rate data.
But I've kind of become a slave to the competition.
Partly it's the competition with others. I get bummed when other people pass me. Not the ones who fly by, but the ones who pull up and pull away gradually. Unfortunately Zwift's popularity and the law of big numbers mean I'll get passed a bunch of times during a one- or two-hour ride.
But mostly it's the competition with myself. No matter what my goal when I start a ride -- even what should be a relaxed, moderately paced recover ride -- I can't help but try to "beat" myself. Complete a route a little faster than before. Improve my average power output. Finish a climb quicker than last time. Max out my heart rate for a few seconds longer than ever before.
I sometimes can't remember my own phone number. But I can instantly recite times and power outputs and heart rates from dozens of different rides and scenarios.
And it kinda sucks.
I'm not alone in thinking that way. Over the years I've spoken with a number of high achievers, many of whom are proud of their success, and yet report feeling unhappy in general.
Why? Their expectations for themselves often rise even faster than their accomplishments.
Hit $5 million in revenue? Great -- but the goal should really be $50 million. Landed 10,000 users? Great -- but the goal should really be 100,000 users.
Success naturally breeds success. But success also breeds ever more lofty goals -- sometimes just incrementally, but often exponentially.
No matter how ambitious a goal once seemed, once achieved it instantly becomes "normal." Instead of comparing yourself with what you were -- instead of looking back to see how far you've come -- you compare yourself with what you could be, or to what others are (or more likely appear to be), and find yourself wanting.
And it kinda sucks.
Unless, every once in a while, you turn off the data collection and metrics. Unless, once in a while, you don't quantify a ride. You just ride: For the joy of riding, and moving, and clearing your head.
Unless, once in a while, you don't quantify the day's sales. You just sell: For the joy of interacting, and connecting, and meeting needs and solving problems.
Unless, once in a while, you stop revising your expectations upward after achieving a goal, since whenever your expectations go up, your level of happiness instantly goes back down. Instead, you look back to how far you've come: From the day you first launched your business. From the day you first started working out. From the day you first made an important connection. First met a meaningful friend.
First thought about achieving whatever you managed to work, and struggle, and grind to accomplish.
Compare yourself to that person.
When something good happens, we all feel happier for a while. Then we adapt to the new normal and return to our baseline "happy state." That adaptation is normal.
So is having high expectations. Goals keep us moving forward. Aspirations give us a sense of purpose.
Without goals, without dreams, life is a little less worth living.
But so, every once in a while, is just living. Without data. Without metrics. Without the expectations. And pressure. And comparisons, especially with yourself.
And so, once in a while, is putting aside how far you think you still need to go, and allowing yourself to feel proud -- and happy -- about just how far you've come.