Do you know how many posts you’ve put on Instagram? Your number of Medium followers? The number of steps you’ve taken today? Yesterday? Last Monday? Our lives are increasingly quantifiable. And the numbers can be motivating — but they can obscure the reasons why we work out, read Medium, take a walk.
In “Stop Keeping Score,” published on Forge, Paul Ollinger writes about how he’s used his Peloton rankings to compare himself to other riders. He figured out ways to manipulate his workouts to go higher and higher on the board. Going higher had replaced getting healthy as a goal. That’s because our brains will always choose the easiest path for validation. Ollinger writes, “Left to their own devices, our brains will measure success by our net worth or TikTok views, because those things are far easier to quantify than the amount of creativity, joy, and connection we experience every day.”
Stop Keeping Score
How to quit measuring success by net worth, fancy titles, or TikTok views
For Ollinger, the numbers themselves aren’t really the problem. It’s what they’re measuring. He writes, “Try this: Instead of counting the number of friends you have on Facebook, count the number of meaningful conversations you’ve had in real time this month. Rather than comparing your results against your neighbor’s efforts, set a personal goal and track your performance over time.”
In “The Thing About Numbers,” Maya Kosoff, a frequent Medium contributor, writes about disordered eating and how numbers have been both friend and enemy to her since college. She writes about her Peloton rankings, which she finds just as motivating as Ollinger, and connects that to losing 30 pounds after a bad breakup, and connects that to her time working for a website that prominently displayed every writer’s current traffic numbers. Kosoff writes, “It is impossible for me not to actively compare myself to everyone else. Not try to beat my own personal best every time, and not try to make a harmlessly gamified system into a bigger deal than it actually is.”