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Feel like You’re Failing? Check the Metric Instead.

Report card time . . .

Once a week for the past 15 months (minus some vacation time), I’ve crafted an idea into an article you’d want to read.

Each word in the final cut’s an official survivor of multiple, no-mercy revisions. (If it won’t serve you, it’s gone—even parts I love.)

But when I upload to my website, I see something that stops me every time:

My Final Grades.

That’s right, computer programs grade my articles for readability and search engine optimization. So I see one of three things for each category:

    1. A green happy face. (My favorite color, coincidentally.)
    2. An orange neutral face.
    3. Or a red sad/angry face.

And if I scroll down, all of my article’s failures (and successes) are conveniently bulleted for me. It’s like having an impersonal book editor.

Obviously, I strive for green, but here’s the thing:

Sometimes changing the most inconsequential thing on the “failure list” can bump me up a level. So for the longest time, I’d search for these easy, zero-impact fixes that would get me a higher grade.

But why?

It’s not like I’d have to show my parents this report card. And I wasn’t changing anything that would benefit you guys. I just wanted that green happy face, which for me meant success.

But I was measuring myself against the wrong metric. And if the grading scale’s meaningless, is acing it really success?

Your Report Card

If you suspect you may be using the wrong metric in an area of your life, try working through these three steps with me:

    1. Investigate

Look at the standards you’re grading yourself against—are they relevant to you? They may be perfect for someone else but do you care about them?

A good place to begin are those metrics that you may have accepted from others, such as what defines a good mom or what healthy looks like.

My example:  Sometimes in an article, I start three consecutive sentences with the same word, for literary effect.

The standard metric:  Monotony lacks creativity. “Try to mix things up!” it says.

Conclusion:  I like the effect and cadence this approach creates. It’s therefore not a metric I care about, and will accept an orange neutral face for not complying with the “rules.”

    1. Rewrite

Now that you’ve removed the irrelevant standards, it’s time to replace them. So what is important to you? Because aside from work evaluations, we can choose most of the metrics in our lives.

So if you realize that your definition of being a good mom doesn’t include helping at every school party, then what does comprise it?

My example:  I care about creating content that inspires you to live full, joyful, peaceful lives in alignment with your purposes.

My new standard metric:  My articles must flow, so that you feel as if you’re sitting safely in a boat with me, floating effortlessly downstream. And when you reach the end of the ride, I hope you feel not only inspired, but also grateful to have joined me.

    1. Incorporate

Alrighty, we’ve got our new, personalized metrics but how do we weave them into our lives?

It’s a lot like knowing and living by your values or moral standards. So if you have a system for keeping you on track with those, try applying it here, too.

So when someone says you need to be doing yoga, but you’re okay with keeping healthy by walking, the goal is to thank them and just keep on walkin’.

But like any creation of a new habit, success comes with practice. And practice happens when we remind ourselves to do so, which is why I love visual reminders—THEY WORK!

My example:  I just added a sticky note to my laptop that says “Orange is the new green!” It reminds me to measure my work against the standards I believe in . . . and it makes me smile.

Setting meaningful metrics allows us to move forward without the shame or regret of failing standards unaligned with our truths. So grab the right measuring tool and go for your own brand of success—even if society gives you a red angry face.

Which metric are you ready to replace? Leave a comment below!

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