In last month’s article, I discussed objective benchmarks and critical numbers as they relate to your business. Just as vital signs provide benchmarks that indicate your body’s health, so do critical numbers provide benchmarks that indicate your business health. You measure them mathematically with a calculator.
However, there’s a third category of benchmarks that you need to monitor. I call them “intuitive benchmarks” that you measure by direct experience. They indicate whether you, as an individual, are flourishing. You don’t use a calculator to know whether you are experiencing peace. It isn’t necessary to “run the numbers” to know if you are enjoying your career. You know these by means of monitoring your personal experience of them.
Calibrating your happ”y”ness meter. Here are some areas that you might monitor that will help indicate whether you are flourishing.
1. Purpose and meaning as compared to aimlessness and frustration: Do you feel that you are pursuing and accomplishing something worthwhile in your chosen vocation and career? Are you merely drifting through life without much gusto propelling you on your way? Do you have a sense of calling, a sense that this is your destiny, what you were made for, this is what you live for? Or are you traveling at 100 MPH going absolutely nowhere?
2. Joyful as compared to despondent, despairing: As important as happiness is, joy runs much deeper. It is not determined by circumstances. Mother Teresa was joyous as she cared for the downtrodden on the streets of Calcutta. Joy effervesces from your spirit. It is either there or not there. You may be able to manufacture happiness but you can’t create joy. Winning the lottery will affect your happiness but it won’t alter your joy. A comedian can make you laugh and be happy. He or she cannot make you joyful.
3. Freedom (independent, autonomous) as compared to inhibited, enslaved, in bondage: Freedom is usually seen in the political sense. To that I’d add your general state of mind. Are you in bondage to your vices, your emotions, debt, emotional creditors as well as financial ones? Are you bound within your organization or family by groupthink? Or are you free and independent in your thinking and expressions?
4. Life (personally growing and improving in well-being: mentally, physically and spiritually) as compared to stagnant, dead, inactive: Are you pursuing life – growth in all areas of your being – in the form of mental, intellectual, physical and spiritual improvement in all areas? Are you like a pond being fed by a flowing stream of fresh water or are you stagnant like a pond with nothing flowing into or out of it?
5. Peace (tranquility, steady, stillness of soul) as compared to anxious, unsteady, timid: “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!” So said General Barnard Bee of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson at the Battle of First Manassas (First Bull Run). Are you the kind of person who displays stone-wall character in the heat of battle? Or are you easily shaken and rattled when circumstances don’t go your way? Peace is the sister of joy. They both spring from the same root.
6. Faith (hope that the future will be good) as compared to despondent and despairing: Jim Collins writes about what he refers to as “The Stockdale Paradox” in his book, “Good To Great.” It states, “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. And at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Conclusion. Benchmarks and standards come in all shapes, sizes and qualities. There are the ones that are easily measured. Net profit margins, material-to-labor ratios, debt ratios are some to name a few. You measure these with arithmetic and a calculator. I call these quantitative or external benchmarks. Then there are benchmarks that are just as real, even more so, that deal with that which is qualitative. You know if you are happy by direct experience, and you don’t need a calculator to tell you so. I refer to these as intuitive or internal benchmarks.
Your quantitative benchmarks may look great (you’re making lots of money and your financial future looks bright) but your qualitative benchmarks may be a disaster (you hate your job and your career choice).
If you are going to flourish, the two need to align. Survey your internal benchmarks and attempt to score them. Don’t be trapped into thinking that “he who dies with the most toys, wins!” Be honest – it’s your life and your happiness that you’re dealing with here. If you aren’t who and where you want to be, then be creative and seek alternatives. It may take some time, but take action. Be proactive. It’s your future.