Living with less

Living without metrics

Always seeking more? Sometimes, the path to happiness lies in seeking less – as I’m discussing in my new series of blogs on the benefits of slow consumption and minimalism for mental health. Welcome to living with less, kicking off with living without metrics.

Living without metrics

It’s easy for metrics to rule your life.

Once upon a time: I weighed myself every day. Every tiny swing of the needle was a source of euphoria or despair – even when it was caused by something as simple as, you know, eating my dinner.

I was the same at school. It didn’t even need to be a bad grade; anything below a B was enough to make my bottom lip quiver.

We can probably all name a few examples of judging ourselves this way. From the time we’re very young, we learn to measure ourselves by performance metrics. And we never really let go of that as adults. If anything, it gets worse – at work, on social media.

Metrics give us a baseline for our own success

They’re not all bad, of course. Sometimes, they help steer us in the ‘right direction’. And they make it easier to judge where you are against others, or where you think you should be – whether that’s wealth, beauty, power, success, the figure on your pay cheque.

But often, they do more harm than good. I read an interesting study that people who were happy with their pay suddenly became unhappy if they found out somebody who did the ‘same job’ got paid more.

Even though the other person’s pay didn’t affect them – and they had been completely content, just minutes before.

Last year, I started to get frustrated with trying to promote my blog. It’s a full time job in and of itself, and social media seemed to be the way to go about it – particularly Instagram.

So I started a dedicated Nicer Thoughts Instagram. It went okay. By spending six hours a day on my phone, I was able to rack up a few hundred followers and drive more clicks to my site.

The result? I felt more anxious than I had done in a while. Christ, but what a depressing slog. I quickly got obsessed with numbers and follower counts, trying to ‘engage’ with the ‘Instagram mental health community’. (Not, for the most part, a healthy place.)

Desperately trying to rack up likes and followers felt like the most hollow thing I’d ever done. And how deeply, deeply counter to the fundamental message of the Nicer Thoughts blog.

Try living without metrics

Living without metrics (or at least living with fewer metrics) is an easy way to limit your anxiety. Whatever you do, someone will always have better metrics. Honestly, if Instagram did go ahead and remove the ability to see other people’s likes, I think that would go some way towards improving the situation. 

But for now? Try and let go of at least one metric you beat yourself up with. Whether that’s the weight on the scale, the fact that your colleague gets paid more than you, or how many followers you have. Stop measuring your life in metrics, and just enjoy your day.


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