What is success? What criteria do you use to determine whether you are doing well or not? In our day in age, we have metrics for just about everything we do. Our workplace have evaluations, schools have grades, gyms have scales, restaurants have reviews and social media have “likes.” It’s hard to go anywhere or do anything these days without a rating system attached to it.
In a way, we want these evaluation tools to exist in order to validate our work and existence. We want to know where we rank in this world. How do we compare with our neighbor?
I recently read a quote by Edward Skidelsky, author of a book called “How much is enough?”, who said “A measure is a dangerous tool, for it tends to take the place of whatever it measures. The thing itself – talent, health – disappears behind a numerical proxy.” Whether it’s measuring advancements in our career, calculating the number of clients served or monitoring how many kilometers we have travelled in a day, we as a culture are beginning to value the scoring system more than the endeavor itself. And what I’m realizing for myself, is that I lose sight of the goal when I begin chasing numbers.
The purest in me wants my intentions to be genuine. I want to play for the love of the game. I want to serve for the sake of the people. I’ve observed that the people I most respect in life are those who work for sake of the mission itself, who consider validation and recognition as an afterthought. They don’t seek praise, because it isn’t the object of their ambition.
I’m not opposed to recording the progress of what we do, I think it’s a necessary practice to ensure that we are doing well. But it’s the shift in emphasis that’s the problem. Why we “measure” makes all the difference in the way we work. When “measures” are emphasized more than what we do, our motives become clouded with self-preserving undertones. We make slight compromises in order to ensure that the self is taken care of.
I’m not sure how it all works out practically yet, but I think that the way we “measure success” has to take into account the principle found in Luke 17:33, where Jesus says “Whoever tries to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”
When we can surrender our need to defend or preserve our existence, I believe we will gain a fearlessness, courage and determination that we see in Christ’s journey to the cross.