The numbers game

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We make the mistake of quantifying everything in our lives.  But so many things are qualitative, not quantitative.

I happened to read an article by Peter Drucker which read, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

It struck a chord when I read it, because I realized that a lot of our success or failure – whether in business or in our personal life – depends on numbers.  We live in a world that is driven by metrics and measurements.  We quantify tonnes of stuff like GPAs, bank balances, calories burnt, Twitter followers, minutes spent on social media, and so on and so forth.  Ours is a world that is consumed by numbers!

We have an innate capability to quickly compare things that have a number attributed to them.  As a consequence of this, we are great at valuing only those things that we can measure.  But there are also certain things in life that cannot be quantified.  If we’re talking in a purely quantitative sense, emotions like love, happiness, faith, friendship, knowledge, anger, fun, fulfilment, passion, peace, gratitude etc… are non-quantifiable and are incapable of being measured.

Is there any scale to measure the hug received from a loved one?

Is there a weighing machine that can measure the happiness received after helping a needy person?

How do you measure the value of a heart gladdened with gratitude?

How do you measure the peace that someone experiences?

Can anyone show you how to measure love?

All these cannot be measured or touched.  It is experienced differently by everyone.  The quality of time that you give to your family, emotional support in the time of need, creating precious moments and long-lasting memories are what make the relationships stronger and these cannot be measured.

The fundamental issue here is that we make the mistake of mixing things that must be quantified and things that cannot be and should not be quantified.  Though connected, they are two totally different things, and both are important in their respective places.

For instance, in business, numbers play a major role and based on this only decision must be made.  Whether a business is suffering profit or loss can only be known by referring to the numbers!  Here, ignoring the numbers will cost the firm itself.  The mistake that many business heads make is that they go with feelings and overlook numbers.  If the firm is in loss, corrective measures have to be taken.  You cannot keep thinking, “It’s my brainchild, I had started this venture, how can I shut it down,” etc.  So here, quantifying is 100% important!

But when it comes to relationships, setting boundaries or a fixed number of hours cannot make a relationship deep.  We cannot sit with our loved ones saying, “Hey, I only have limited time here; anything special on your mind, say it now.”  Or you just cannot say, “I call my dad twice a day and I think that is more than enough.”  Or say, “I sat for an hour with my mom, so I’m done with my duty!”

We have an innate capability to quickly compare things that have a number attributed to them.

As a consequence of this, we are great at valuing only those things that we can measure.

These things are not a mere tick mark on a to-do list!  Feelings are not duties.  For your loved ones, it’s okay if you have just sat for few minutes or called up only once, but in those few minutes if you are able to portray your love, make them feel special, melt them in your love, this will matter more than anything for them.  Whatever the definition of quality time might be, it certainly isn’t the number of hours spent.

Ask any grandparents if they like it when their grandchildren say that they sat with them for two hours!  A grandparent will never like to quantify any amount of time spent with their grandchildren.

Ask any mother would she like to share how many chapatis or bowls of rice her son ate.  No mother would quantify that because of their love for their children.

So often we even hear a lot of people make the naive mistake of playing the same number game with their Source of Faith, their God.  I keep hearing from people, about how much time they spend on God on a daily basis – for instance, how they spend X number of hours in prayer, Y minutes in serving God, chanting 108 times, etc.  So many people are caught up with the idea of spending time with God on a clock-in clock-out basis that it starts becoming a formality.  Spirituality is all about emptying oneself and not quantifying.  We just ‘be’ with God anywhere and everywhere.  Making faith time bound is like calculating how many hours were spent on God as if it were just another chore.  What is important to realize is that even eleven minutes of heartfelt prayer or chanting done with full faith and dedication is hundred times more powerful than hours of part-time prayer that is performed as a daily routine.  When it comes to prayer, quality is important, not quantity.

What is critical for us is to realize that there should be clarity in distinguishing between where we need to measure and quantify through metrics and where we should focus on quality over quantity.  When it comes to our personal and professional growth, what cannot be measured will not grow – this applies to health, wealth and other materialistic pursuits.  Along the same lines, when it comes to our relationships, happiness, family and spirituality, the priority should be quality over quantity.

Our beloved Mahatria would often say, “In a materialistic world, quantifying definitely matters and we should not make the grave mistake of defining the same in the spiritual world!”

So start practicing this conscious differentiation and be aware of your focus between quality and quantity.  This clarity is definitely a winning combination and undoubtedly the recipe for a peaceful, happy and successful life.

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