What is it? And is it really a thing?
I didn’t grow up with what I call Personal Metrics. Personal metrics are all the things we can measure about our daily life. Screen time, steps taken, protein consumption- that kind of thing. Having a device on my wrist that reads my heart rate, tells me how many miles I walk daily, to the hundredth, and having a device on my bookshelf that can answer questions, play music and movies, or order anything I can afford. You get my drift. But I pre-date these things because I’ve been around this planet since the 1950s. So, has the access to these metrics improved our lives?
I recently read an article on the daily life regimen of a physical trainer and executive who doesn’t believe in work/life balance, likely because her metrics clearly indicate that she has none. It is fine to say you don’t believe in something you haven’t experienced. Or is it? The article was quite disturbing to me and I commented to that point in comments. That comment has received a steady stream of claps, follows, etc. So I thought about it.
Prior to the advent of daily computer use and a ubiquitous internet, any personal metrics we kept were likely measured in journal entries or in broader terms. I might have known, for instance, how many words I wrote in a given year because the books I’d written sat in my bookcase and I could estimate it. After Gladwell’s debunked 10,000 hour theory came out I took his Beatles theory and tried to estimate how many hours our band had practiced in our quest for fame. I could only extrapolate some number based on a (foggy) recollection (it was the eighties after all).
The woman in the article used daily metrics constantly to justify a slightly (to me) insane devotion to achieving physical perfection, a devotion that any person my age can tell you will inevitably lead to her being a physical wreck later in life, barring medical breakthroughs. She is still too young to realize she is only matching public memes that encourage these obsessions. I truly hope that someday her perspective shifts and she is able to relax a bit. Unfortunately it probably will take some kind of calamity for this to happen. But when it does, I suspect she will regret the things she lost. Lost time is not found again.
So, what about balance?
Balance isn’t complex but it can get away from you if you’re not paying attention. It can be as simple as counterbalancing screen time with active time. Or alone time with social time. If you diet or maintain a healthy eating regimen it may mean having that one day a week when you can stuff your face with pizza and pasta. Things get out of balance when you veer to the extreme in one thing at the expense of its balancing activity. That lack of balance was totally characterized in the life of that trainer who actually sacrificed sleep to work out more.
Balance in work, life, relationships, etc., is really making sure you counterbalance priorities with their opposites. If you go back to those personal metrics I talked about you can find the tools you need to gauge whether your life is in balance or veering towards the indulgent or obsessive.Use them. Too much sitting? Go out and get a few thousand steps in. Unhappy at work? Start exploring alternatives. Gaining weight or drinking too much? Start tracking those things. Keep a meal or drink diary. It can really help you see out of balance actions. The metrics give us data that can’t be ignored if we use them. Getting obsessed with tracking metrics? Go and meditate!