I broke my wife’s ruler the other day. It was her favorite ruler because it was made of wood. It was exactly 12 inches long and, since it was usually on her desk, was accessible when she needed to measure something. She wasn’t happy. In spite of my repairs, it wasn’t much good for measuring.
When I broke it, I wasn’t measuring something. I was using it to guide a small harmless snake toward the door of our back porch. A little too much pressure against the floor while pushing the snake toward the opening resulted in the “snap” clearly heard by my wife. She politely explained that I wasn’t using the ruler properly.
Rulers, scales, and stop watches are extremely helpful tools when we use them for their intended purpose. Note to self: Rulers aren’t much good for herding snakes! Come to think of it, a scale doesn’t serve its purpose when gathering dust in the bathroom closet, and a stop watch can’t be used to keep track of your daily appointments.
Using the RIGHT tool, according to its purpose, can make all the difference when it comes to growth and improvement. We often forget that what gets measured gets improved. Conversely, what gets ignored repeatedly can deteriorate without our awareness.
Einstein said, “Not all that matters can be measured, and not all that can be measured matters.” The first question to ask ourselves, and our children, is “What matters that can be measured?” Does your weight matter to you? If so, do you use a scale on a daily basis to become aware? Aware of what? Aware of the impact of your daily choices of what to eat, how much to eat, how much to exercise, what kind of exercise, and for how long. The real reason for any tool, from a ruler to a scale, from a stopwatch to a calculator, is to become aware of movement – progress or digression. Every choice after that is an informed choice. “Will this workout – or this piece of chocolate cake – take me closer to my goal, or farther away?”
I don’t believe in becoming a slave to any of these tools, or to allowing them to rule my life. However, young athletes who have dreams of being a starter on the team, qualifying for a competition, or just earning more playing time, can benefit from being taught HOW to use tools that measure progress. The life lesson of INCREASED EFFORT = DIFFERENT RESULTS is an essential lesson. Hope is not a strategy!
We fulfill our parenting responsibility when we teach our children that many of their outcomes are directly tied to their inputs…and inputs can be measured in many situations.
- Hours of quality practice invested per week
- Hours of sleep per night
- Hours of focused study per week
- MPH of a ball thrown
- Percentage of shots made
- Number of errors committed
- Calories consumed and calories burned
- New friends made
- Number of sincere compliments given
- Number of random acts of kindness initiated
If you hear your children complaining about their outcomes in sports, school, or socially, ask them three questions. “What matters most to you?” “If it can be measured, what direction is your progress?” “What new choices will give you different results in the future?” Tools are cool, when we use them in a purposeful way.