Monday, March 26, 2018

Measure Everything

It's a basic business principle to measure everything.  If you aren't measuring the minutia of your operations, you're likely missing opportunity for continuous improvement.

Our world has adapted this value, the measurement of all things.  My vehicle sends me routine diagnostic reports, tracking efficiency and capacity.  My watch and phone count my steps, tell me to move, and celebrate or encourage progress.  My Bible app records consecutive days I've been in the Word, or absent.  Facebook apparently tracks more than I am aware.  This hyper-measuring is all with good intention, to help me live a better life. 

My family and I were recently on vacation.  We barely escaped the looming temptation to postpone or cancel the trip to visit family.  There were just too many things circling.  Deadlines immovable at work, standardized testing at school, youth sports tournaments already paid for, and the realization that it's quite difficult to step off the treadmill without first reducing the pace.  It's even more difficult to jump back on.

Author Andy Stanley says that happy marriages are rooted in our ability to be selfless.  He calls it a "race to the end of the line."  In marriages at least, measuring does far more harm than good.  When either participant is keeping score, expectations are constructed and a failure to deliver on those expectations grows into resentment and... half of the marriages in our country know the rest of the story.

We went on a boat on vacation.  The waves lapping the sides of the pontoon, the wind a humid chill.  We left our devices behind, launching into the sea seemingly the only way to escape the self-imposed measuring of all things.  No notifications informing me of a message in queue, waiting for my response, clock ticking.  The rocking of the ocean lulling us to calm, distracting from the busy to the quiet.  It was only after the wind, earthquake, and fire passed that the Prophet Elijah heard the still, small of God as recorded in the Old Testament. Truth is mined from the depths of our souls when the loud storms of our days pass and we are left standing in the still and the quiet.

What to do with all of this?  The measuring and controlling versus the exhaling and slowing.  Perhaps it's not either / or.  Are we just measuring the wrong things?  Or, not measuring enough things?

We need to measure our organizations, our pursuits.  The discipline of excellence, of using all that we've been given to make the world a better place and the intentionality to slow, see, and listen are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they're interwoven and dependent on one another. 

We need to measure our days.  The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the early church and noted, "Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, ...barren pursuits..." (The Message).  We must be intentional with our time, an exhaustive resource.  Yet, an afternoon spent in conversation and coffee with a friend might be measured as the most significant work God has put in front of us today.  Equal to that of running a Fortune 500 company?  In both, the fortune found in investing in people, in life.

We need to measure our marriages.  Opposite score-keeping, measurement should be found in out-serving the other.  Stanley says that when we can get to the point of saying, "I owe my spouse everything and they owe me nothing in return," we've uncovered one of the secrets to a happy marriage.  This is counter-cultural.  This is illustrative Jesus' life (Matthew 20:28).

Essentially, it's re-orienting our innate sense to measure.  Oriented toward earthly pursuits, they seem void of meaning at the end of our days.  "It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement - that they seek power, success, and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life."  (Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents).  Oriented toward the imaginative, purposeful, abundant, joyful heart of our Creator and we almost unknowingly become the same, living life on purpose.

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