I admit it. I’m a number-tracking junkie. That is, I track a lot of numbers. I track how many miles I run. I track how fast I run those miles. I track how many times a week I exercise and for how long. Meanwhile, I track all the particular numbers of our finances: money going in, money going out, money being invested, money being saved. Also, for example, I track how many books I’ve read as well as how many pages I’ve read, etc…
You get the idea. I do a lot of tracking.
There are certain advantages to being numbers-oriented, but one can get trapped. I have found myself more concerned with numbers– “how much” especially– than with the experience those numbers are meant to represent. Because the experience is what I really want. I want to feel good. I want to have a good time. I want to be satisfied in my life.
I am after personal happiness 🙂
And numbers are, at best, a highly-flawed measure of personal happiness. The relationship between numbers and happiness is often coincidental at best. After all, earning $1 million in a year in your career doesn’t necessarily make you happy. On the other hand, earning $30k in a year doesn’t necessarily make you unhappy.
Income is probably the most focused on number when it comes to work. However, there’s much more to our happiness with our work than just our income. There’s satisfaction with the work itself. There’s enjoying our interactions with others we work with. There’s having flexibility in our schedule. There’s the ease or difficulty of our commute (if there is one). There’s having a feeling of progress, of contributing something that matters, and knowing there are prospects for advancement or growth. There’s having a sense of autonomy. There’s having adequate downtime. There’s receiving other benefits that come with the work (such as health insurance, or the company’s 401k program). There’s all the non-work aspects of our lives that effect our working experience.
Oh, and there’s also how much we get paid.
While income probably ranks in the top three considerations of most people’s work, there are a lot of other factors involved in one’s overall work satisfaction. Also, people change over time. What pleased you last year might not please you this year. To reduce happiness to a number is a mistake, because it can’t possibly contain all the relevant information about where the person is in their life. Nor can it predict how they will evolve and change over time.
It’s the same with my running life. Last year I was all balled up with the importance of training for marathons. The number “26.2” loomed over my mind, having achieved that distance twice the year before. I was blinded temporarily by the number. I wasn’t training for love anymore. It was a blessing when I didn’t end up running the marathon.
This year, I have yet to run over 7 miles at one time, and I am happy as a clam. If I was still attached to the numbers of marathon training, I would be sunk. But I know better!
I may still be a numbers junkie. But now I know that first and foremost, I’m an alignment junkie. It’s fine to follow my numbers, but my main goal in life now is to reach for joy always, to make satisfaction the most important thing.
And I’ll count the numbers along the way.