I realized the other day that I track three numbers:
1. The number of miles I swim, bike and run, plus the number of minutes I do workout videos and weight training exercises.
2. The number of books I read in a year.
3. The number of words I write in National Novel Writing Month (see the chart below for the totals at the end of yesterday):
This issue came up because I saw an article in The Wall Street Journal in which the columnist asserted that runners only run because they are narcissistic, attention-seeking people. (I won’t link to the article because the author doesn’t deserve the, um, attention — but I will link to an excellent rebuttal). The columnist’s assertion that I run to get attention is laughable. Running is way too hard to do it simply to impress someone else. Besides, if I wanted to be seen, I wouldn’t get up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday for a long run.
So why do I keep track of my miles (1,106 run so far this year)? Because it gives me a kind of concrete feedback on my goals and personal accomplishments that I do not get in other areas of my life. No one pops up after a tough discussion with my tween daughter to say, “You handled that really well — good for you!” or “You really missed the mark on that one.” I might get a hug or a smile from my daughter, but that does not necessarily mean that the encounter was a success, that I guided her properly.
Do I keep track of the number of books I’ve read so far this year (55) to imply that I’m better than someone else? Heck no! I remember all too well when I was in the thick of caring for a baby, a toddler, and a kindergartner, and all I could manage to read was a short magazine article when I stole five minutes for a hot bath at the end of the day. Do I think I’m a better person today than I was then? Hardly!
And why does it give me such pleasure to see that little blue line on the NaNoWriMo chart above turn green when I’ve hit the word count for the day? Because it’s instant feedback that says, “Good work! You’ve met your goal for the day!”
Do you set tangible, measurable goals for yourself and keep track of your progress? How’s your mileage count looking so far this year, or your word count this month?