What Measurements Don’t Tell You

“When we deal in generalities, we shall never succeed. When we deal in specifics, we shall rarely have a failure. When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”  This statement is from a wise and experienced friend of mine, we can just call him “Tom” for anonymity’s sake.  I wholeheartedly agree with this.  If we can identify the key variables for success in any endeavor and accurately measure them, we are destined for great things.

However, I would argue that many of the social and economic problems we see in the world today have been caused by measuring the wrong things.  How do we measure happiness?  That’s easy—just tell me how much money you make each year.  How do we measure health?  Here’s a simple equation for that: calories consumed minus calories burned.  These are totally inaccurate measurements that depict why there are so many problems across this rapidly developing world.

Happiness cannot be measured by GDP.  Overall health cannot be measured with a few equations or tests.  Nor can peace be measured by the number of nuclear warheads destroyed, self-worth measured by the number of outfits in your wardrobe, or spirituality measured by the number of times you attend church each month.  Measurement becomes a hindrance when it causes us to pursue the least important things in life at the expense of the things of greatest worth.

So how do we do it?  How do we measure the things that really count?  It’s difficult, in large part because we attempt to quantify that which is qualitative in nature.  Eventually we will understand how to measure things like mental, emotional, and spiritual health qualitatively.  Eventually we will be able to “deal in specifics” with these matters.