Measurement – One Key to Growth

Why Measure?

The feeling of growth is one of our motivators in life.  This is according to Tony Robbins, an extremely successful self-development guru.  As an example, let me share with you a personal story from my last summer.

Fitness has always been one of my goals.  Last summer, I decided to base my fitness on four criteria: 1. pushups; 2. pullups; 3. mile time; and 4. soccer ball juggles.  I had a set routine which consisted of me doing what I considered regular workouts every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Then on every Sunday, I would take my measurements.  Everything was great.  I was consistently seeing improvement and feeling good about myself.  Then, I decided to stop measuring.

Here is what caused my decision to stop measuring.  I was reading many books, articles, and blogposts about “being in the present moment.”  There is a beauty that shows itself when we are in the present moment.  So, I decided that I am going to work out solely for the beauty of the workout moments.  Boy did this little experiment fail!  As it turns out, there is a lot of pain when you work out.  Guess what ended up happening to my workouts?

I stopped!

What’s the Benefit in Measuring?

Measuring allows us to visualize our growth.  When I was working out and measuring, for example, I saw my pullups, pushups, and juggles increase.  I saw my mile time decrease.  I was able to clearly visualize my progress.  The visualization leads to realization.  Realization leads to the feelings of accomplishment and importance.

To sum up: “Measurization” –> Visualization –> Realization –> “Feelings-of-accomplishment-and-importance-ation.”

How Can We Use This?

Come up with a way to measure any new goal or habit you want in your life.  More importantly, take and record the measurements!

Here’s a recent example from my life.  I set a goal to reduce the amount of water I use while showering.  During a water unit I was teaching last year, I found out that Africans use, on average, 5 gallons of water per day!  To bring this back to showering, I found out that the estimate for water use for showers is 2.5 gallons per minute.  Also, with one of my roles being an environmentalist, I wanted to reduce the amount of time I spent in the shower.

What did I measure?  I measured the amount of time I spent in the shower.  I also measured what my showerhead’s flow rate is (1.7 gallons/min).  After my measurements, I was able to create the graph below to help me visualize my results.

Water per shower

I was able to see, or realize, the progress in decreasing the amount of water I was using (the two spikes were when I shaved in the shower which didn’t happen during the other showers).  And, this caused me to feel great!  Woohoo!  The feeling of accomplishment!

Back to Create to Know

When we record our measurements, we are creating an artifact of our life.  I figured this was a good time to be reminded of the importance of creating artifacts.  Furthermore and on a related note, I wanted to share my complete write-up of this experiment.  If we truly are to be the roles we want to be, then we must create things which support them!

The Art of Listening

The Untaught Skill

Listening for feeling is a rarely taught skill.  Within the Common Core, listening is found.  Here is one of the standards:

Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

I have a feeling people assume that only facts are being said.  But, how often do we say something we don’t really mean?  Or, there is a hidden meaning in what we say?

Empathetic Listening

In order to understand a person, we must understand his/her emotions.  Human behavior stems from emotions.  Throughout our lives we are told to be empathetic, or to try to put ourselves in the other’s shoes.  Empathetic listening is actively being empathetic.  But, it has a bonus!  We get to check if we are correct almost immediately.

Below is an example of empathetic listening done by a father to his son.  This is taken from Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

S: Boy, Dad, I’ve had it!  School is for the birds!

D: You’re really frustrated about school.

S: I sure am.  It’s totally impractical.  I’m not getting a thing out of it.

D: You feel like school’s not doing you any good.

S: Well, yeah.  I’m just not learning anything that’s going to help me.  I mean, look at Joe.  He’s dropped out of school and he’s working on cars.  He’s making money.  Now that’s practical.

D: You feel that Joe really has the right idea.

S: Well, I guess he does in a way.  He’s really making money now.  But in a few years, I bet he’ll probably be ticked off at himself.

Note the responses by the dad.  They contain both the content of what the son was saying and the feeling the son had.  This is a great model of how to show someone you understand them, both in content and in emotion.  Now, if the dad was wrong in either the content or emotion, the son would correct him.  That was the added bonus I mentioned earlier.  Also, compare this to how a “normal” person would respond.  A normal person would likely argue with the son as soon as leaving school was brought up, which is a non-productive dialogue.

  Why is Empathetic Listening an Important Skill?

People are far happier when they are understood.  By showing, or at least attempting to show, that you understand, the other person feels important.  This develops trust, which is required for complete honesty.  And with honesty, we get all the data we need to solve problems.  Who doesn’t like solving problems?  Boom.  Happy.

The Characters of Your Life

Dreams of Our Youth

What did you want to be when you grew up?  An astronaut?  A police officer?  A doctor?  A professional soccer player?  A roller coaster designer?  The world felt as if it was created for our pleasure.

With those dreams in mind, what did you do as a child?  As a teenager?  If you are like me, then you probably spent the majority of your time messing around with friends.  For example, we watched quality movies like Cube.


Don’t you worry.  We also watched the sequels.  And we spent time playing Guitar Hero, Halo, and watching The O.C.

There was a time in my youth when I wanted to be a roller coaster designer.  But, did the majority of my activities support that dream?  No.  Was what you were doing helping you achieve your dream?

Living Our Dreams

Dreams can change.  And that is okay.  But, what are your dreams now?  How did you respond to the Dreaded Question?

We all want to make an impact.  I discovered, through the answering of the Dreaded Question, that I want to make my impact as a humanitarian, an environmentalist, a scientist, and an inspiration to others.  Now the question becomes, What characters can I be which support my dream?

We all have multiple characters we play in our lives.  Some common ones are boyfriend/girlfriend, family member, and self-developer.  Others characters are more specific.  For example, I am a teacher/mentor.  You might be a salesman, truck driver, or manager.  Identify the characters you want to be in your life.  I suggest you have 7 or less characters with at least 3 directly related to your dream.

What do you do once you have your characters?  We must plan dream supporting actions for each character and schedule them into your next week.  For example, one of my roles is scientist.  I planned to measure the water flow rate for my shower.  This supported two of my dreams.  One being a scientist and the other being an environmentalist!  Another example is my role of being a boyfriend.  I planned to write to Abbie while I am visiting friends in Milwaukee.  This supports my goal of being a humanitarian.

This can be difficult at first.  I am finding out that I am not naturally a scientist or an environmentalist.  Planning those actions takes much more time than planning my actions of being a boyfriend.  Do not fret over this.  Achieving dreams takes disciplined work.  New skills will be learned along the way.  The benefit to this is that learning new things is immensely enjoyable once accomplished!  So, keep true to your planned actions.  Place them on a calendar.  We must plan to reach our dreams.  Otherwise, we get easily distracted.  Don’t let Facebook or re-runs of The Big Bang Theory keep you from your dreams!


The Dreaded Question

What’s My Purpose in Life?

Gallup reports that only 13% of people are engaged in their job.  This means that the great majority of people are not excited for their work.  They aren’t passionate about something they spend close to half of their day doing.    Why is this something to be concerned about?

Imagine doing something that you love.  More importantly, imagine how you act both while and after doing it.  When I start creating meaningful lessons for students, I get excited.  I share my ideas with others around me excitedly and I can see excitement start to build within them.  But, this is only when I am doing passionate work.

What happens when we spend the majority of our time doing things we aren’t passionate about?  Our fuel is drained.  People around us aren’t excited or seemingly very interesting.  We begin to question our importance in the world, especially with the realization that we can easily be replaced at our current jobs.  For me, forced meetings and mandatory curriculum suck the passion out of me.  And I’ve listened enough to other people to know I’m not alone.  So, what can we do to either get back or find the passion in our lives?

Start to Take Back Control of Your Life

We all want to feel important.  A pat on the back, being told good job, or a surprise gift cause us to feel special.  Those are all good things, but they aren’t what drives passion.  The feeling of importance must come from within.  We must answer the question, What causes us to feel important and we have direct influence on?

Achieving goals.

When we make progress we become happier.  The key word is progress.  I could set a goal to lay on a couch all day, but it wouldn’t make me happy.  In fact, it would likely do the opposite.  How do we know what we consider progress?  How do we decide what goals to make?

Using the Fear of Death to Develop and Write a Personal Mission Statement

Watch this Sam Harris video and pay attention to the epiphany he mentions.  Does it resonate with you?

“The one thing people tend to realize at moments like this is that they wasted a lot of time when life was normal…They cared about the wrong things.”

What do you care about?  To help you figure this out, I suggest using the following scenario and questions.

Imagine you are attending your own funeral in three years time.  What descriptions do you want people to use to describe you?  What accomplishments do you want people to be discussing?  Who is attending the funeral?

Each questions focuses on a different value you have.  The first question puts into focus what you want your character to be.  In other words, it helps you identify how you wish to act.  Is it honest? Bold? Funny?  A go-getter type?  A go-with-the-flow type?  The second question puts into focus what impact you’d like to make on the community.  Maybe you want to reduce world hunger.  Maybe you want to coach a youth team.  Maybe you want to start your own business.  The third question puts into focus what relationships you should prioritize.  Maybe that grudge you are holding against your sibling does need to be taken care of.

Use the Ideas to Write a Mission Statement

A mission statement describes how you will act.  It is general guidelines to assess your actions.  It should be vague enough to let life’s spontaneity flow, yet clear enough to know when you should, or should have, said no to a circumstance.  With it in place, you should definitively know what you must apologize for and what you shouldn’t.

Below is my current mission statement.  Like the U.S. Constitution, my mission statement has changed.  But, the main messages have not.  Please share your personal mission statement or any questions you have related to this post in the comments below.

My Mission Statement

I will be a humanitarian.  I will act respectfully and compassionately toward all humans.  The long-term well-being of the community will guide my actions.

I will be an environmentalist.  I will act in ways to respect and develop the environment.  Developing an environment which encourages well-being and attempting to be zero-sum in terms of energy use are my goals.

I will be a scientist.  I will act in ways to empirically explain phenomena.  Continuous questioning, learning, and creating and sharing of experiments is my goal.

I will be inspirational.  I will act passionately.  The enthusiastical sharing of my stories, lessons learned, and adventures in my life is my goal.


Value Mind Map – Learning – April 20th – 26th

Learning is great!  Abbie chose for us to focus on our value of Learning this week.  Below is the mind map I created to help me keep track.Learning mind map

Looks like I need a better camera!  That picture is hard to read.  But here are the key ideas I took away each day this past week.

The endless library thought experiment caused me to realize the difficulty in unlimited choices.  Our lives are sometimes too open and we become stagnant instead of taking action.  Creating a sense of limited resources will improve our productivity.

I was meditating and realized that doing is required.  Specifically, I was thinking about how fast paced society is and how we rarely take time to appreciate it.  I had an urge to get up and go tell people to slow down.  However, this would cause me to become fast paced and not act how I believe we should live, which in this case was slowing down and appreciating what I did have.

We should all take a vow to do the important tasks first thing in the morning.  If we put them off, then they suddenly become something to do later.

We must play within our values.  I sprayed some water in my students’ face when they wouldn’t be quiet today.  I did it with a smile on my face.  Guess what happened?  Students began doing it to one another.  I wouldn’t like that either.  My “play” was disrespectful.  We must keep our values in mind for all our actions.

I often become lethargic when thinking about work.  I want to do anything but it.  I realized I am missing having a purpose in my educating students.  Sounds awful, doesn’t it?  In anything we do, I think it is best we have some sort of purpose to fuel us.

Oddly, I often find myself ruminating over my work.  This is draining.  I realized I need downtime to help keep myself energized for my important, yet challenging, tasks.

Lastly, I learned about physical computer manipulations.  I watched a TED talk about a using physical objects to work with computers.  For example, he showed how we could have 3 different objects representing Fire, Ambulance, and Police units and physically place them on a map.  Also, there is a way to learn about protein structures by having the objects respond when moved (i.e. feeling the way proteins are folded).

Overall, it was a great week.  And I am glad I had this moment to reflect upon my learning again.