Years ago, there was only three things I measured in my life:
1. My weight
2. How many hours I worked out at the gym/ how many calories I expended
3. How many calories I consumed
The first became the benchmark for the other two. My morning weight would determine how many calories I would need to burn and how many hours I would need to spend at the gym. A good day meant I could burn a nice even 2,000 calories and once I hit that target I was “allowed” to go home. A bad day meant anywhere from five to eight hours at the gym where the caloric goal would just be as high as I could get it that day. How many calories I consumed, varied in accordance to #1 and 2, but generally followed a principle of “less is more” so that I was always in a caloric deficit.
Years ago, when those were the three things I measured, my life looked and felt very different. While it was laser-focused, goal-orientated and result-driven, it was also exhausting, unsustainable and neurotic. There were nights I would come home from a three-hour gym session (after already having done one in both the morning and afternoon), where I’d wake up panicked in the middle of the night, worried I hadn’t measured enough or measured correctly. I worried my scale checking scale (yes, I had multiple scales) wasn’t calibrated correctly. I questioned if the bar I ate earlier in the day really had the exact calories listed or if the company was lazy and put a rough estimate – or worse, if they lied completely. In a cold, panicked sweat I’d reach for my hip bones, my safety to know I was OK…at least in the moment.
We all live quantitative lives and we’re all measuring something. Whether it’s money, time, days until, days since, our age, weight, calories, GPA, mile time or social media followers – we’re always counting. It’s something we’ve been taught to do from an early age. But, we’re never taught about what to count or why we’re counting that thing.
What do you measure in your life?
I found myself reflecting on this question Monday afternoon, after doing my weigh-in for the 60-day challenge at LifeTime Fitness. The 60-day challenge is something I always participate in both to support the Personal Training team and also to work toward my two big strength goals: doing at least 10 unassisted pullups and increasing my deadlift weight from 135lbs. What I love about the 60-day challenge is that I can measure my progress and work toward my strength goals over 60 days. While I’ve yet to be able to pull myself up unassisted, the last several challenges have helped me increase my deadlift weight up to the 135lbs I’m currently at. However, the other piece of the 60-day challenge, the other piece I never do is the weigh-in. It’s the piece I always skip after breaking up with my scale years ago. Somehow, after a 10-minute tantrum with my trainer, I found myself standing on the scale, staring at a numbers – my weight, skeletal muscle mass, percentage of body fat – numbers that I wasn’t happy with. In an instant I felt like that panic-stricken former self who’d wake up in the middle of the night, except this time there were no hip bones to grab and she was not OK.
Not feeling OK based on a numeric value was something I was very familiar with and it was something I forced myself to be with and to breathe through on Monday. Years ago, this feeling would have sent me right up to find the nearest stair climber where’d I’d spend hours punishing myself. Instead, my yoga and the teachers that have guided me in the years since my recovery, allowed me to sit with the little me who was just scared. Underneath the disgust and the feeling fat, was a scared little girl who was worried that because she didn’t measure up, she wouldn’t be enough. Sitting with her pain – my pain – really allowed me to assess what I was measuring or what I wanted to measure in my life.
I thought back to the days I had a “good” day or the day I hit my goal weight of 96lbs – the weight I swore if I got to my life would be perfect, I would be enough and I would finally be beautiful. But that day came and went and there was no celebration, no pomp and circumstance, no feelings of enoughness that flooded my being. There was only another new goal, another new number to hit, just more not-enoughness to fill.
What I was measuring and the way in which I was measuring my life would never be enough. When I was caught in a cycle of measuring my weight – and ultimately my self-worth – those measurements became a silent thief stealing my joy, my spark, my smile, my time and ultimately my life.
What we count matters.
Our lives are shaped by how we choose to spend our time and energy each day and if we’re not choosing consciously what we count and what we give our time and energy to, it’s easy to allow the things we count to become silent thieves in our lives.
Counting What Matters
When I really thought about it, sure I’d love to increase my muscle mass and lose a small percentage of body fat in the process – BUT, that isn’t what adds value to the overall quality of my life and I know that getting caught up in that game of numbers will get me no where that is fulfilling #beentheredonethat
What does matter in my life are the values I live by; the relationships I have with my family, friends and students; and the impact I get to create through my writing and my teaching. I know when the decisions I make are aligned with my values, when I show up in loving ways in my relationships and when I focus on the impact I can create rather than how many people are in class or how many likes I get on social media, that’s where I feel my best and happiest.
When we count what matters, what matters counts.
Measuring what matters does count, but it won’t solve everything and it’s far from the ultimate answer in life. However, it is a way to track the things we say are important to us.
Are you showing up in the areas of life you say are important to you?
Get Curious About What Matters
Identify What Matters
What are the things in your life that matter to you – that make you feel your best, or in some way improve your quality of life? Who are the people that matter and how do they make you feel?
Determine How You Will Measure What Matters
Knowing what we value and what matters is important but if we don’t have a way to measure it, we’ll lack accountability. Bear in mind, if what matters to you is doing 10 unassisted pull-ups, that’s something that is easily trackable and measurable. Not all things that matter in life are as easy to measure.
Love is important, but how do you measure it?
Morality is important, but how do you quantify it accurately?
Finding meaning in our lives is essential, but how do we calculate it?
While you can’t measure love, you can track different ways in which you are showing up as loving in your life. Maybe you make it a point to send one gratitude text a week to an important person in your life. Or perhaps you commit to one date night a week or each month as a way to reconnect with your significant other.
It’s challenging to track morality, but you can investigate if the decisions you are making are aligned with your values. You can even write out your top three values each morning as part of your daily practice, reaffirming the values that will guide your thoughts, words and decisions for that day.
What we measure does matter and if we’re not conscious to what we’re measuring, it’s easy for those things to consume our lives and leave us feeling exhausted, unfulfilled and not-enough.
What can you start counting today that matters? What’s one thing that if you started counting today would actually add meaning to your life?