This is a tricky subject for me to write about because I am goal-driven, and numbers are typically used as benchmarks to reach or define a goal. I like goals. They give us something to strive for, something to look forward to, and are a great way to push ourselves to the next level of success. The challenge becomes when you start to measure your intrinsic value based on those goals.
Let me rewind here. I started measuring my success as a kid. I went on my first diet in the 6th grade so that I could lose 13 pounds in order to compete against other kids in the sport of Judo. Since I was weighing what most women weighed as a child, I had to decide: lose weight so I could compete against children, or stay the same weight and continue to compete against women (and lose every match). It made perfect sense to me to lose weight. This experience would teach me a few lessons: count calories, lose weight, reach the goal. Reaching the goal felt good. I wanted to do it again.
7th grade: I would score a 96 on a math test, and I would ask to retake it. I am sure that in some ways Mrs. Bobo loved the fact that I enjoyed her class enough to want to do better, but looking back, I also bet she also thought I was a pain in the rear. Once again, set a goal, score the perfect grade, reach the goal (even if that meant retaking the test), feel good. Do it again.
I am not going to bore you with the next few years of my life, but I will say that this mindset led to a lot of success, and it also led to a lot of confusion. I was successful in school, in recruitment, in business development and sales, in growing a business, in fundraising, in living a debt-free life, and the list goes on and on. Each of these is numbers and metrics based, and since I had grown up understanding that numbers meant success, I could succeed in environments in which numbers defined success, but when I began using numbers to define my happiness with regards to hobbies and personal value, I became confused because numbers don’t always determine value. Numbers don’t always determine success. Numbers sure don’t always measure fun and happiness.
I am a runner, so most of what I write about is running related. For many years, I trained for my fall marathon and raised money at the same time. Measure your weekly mileage. Measure your weekly fundraising. Work to the goal. I was good at this process. It was all numbers based. As I built up my mileage and as my fundraising dollars increased, I got more and more excited. Once again, set a goal, reach a goal, feel good, but what happens when you no longer wish to tie in your hobby (running) with your service and contribution (fundraising)? Could you still be happy? The answer is YES! I started giving back to my community in other ways, and I ran just to run. It helped me to separate the two, and it allowed me to actually enjoy the each independently even than I had enjoyed them together.
Back to the running…as I have begun to slow down, I also began getting frustrated with myself because my legs would not turn over as fast as they used to. Each slower run would end up in disappointment, so I didn’t want to run anymore. However, when I would leave the watch at home, I found that I enjoyed the runs and didn’t care how fast or slow I was running. I was no longer tied to a number on a watch. I recently had to pull the watch back out because I am training for another race, and I need to know how far I am going so I can meet my weekly mileage goals. Yes, once again, set a weekly mileage goal, reach the goal, feel good. Do it again. However, this time is different. As I think about the mileage and am forced to look at the time on the watch, I can look at it as just a number. It isn’t a number that defines me. It isn’t a number that defines my ability to serve and support. It isn’t a number that makes me happy or sad. It is simply a number.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still love goals. I am actually currently training for marathons number 39 and 40, but should something happen, and I am unable to finish either or both of those virtual marathons, they won’t change me as a person. When we begin to realize that we are MORE than just a GOAL, and we bring MORE VALUE to the universe than some random number that either we assign to ourselves or someone tells us we should we should work toward, we begin to enjoy the process more and more. When we enjoy the process, we find more joy and happiness. When we live in a state of joy and happiness, we ultimately make the world a better place, and isn’t THAT THE ULTIMATE GOAL?
So the next time you don’t meet some random number goal, learn from it and grow from it, but don’t let it define you because YOU ARE MORE THAN JUST A NUMBER.