In habit-tracking, in anti-racist work, and maybe just in life – using a measure as your target can be detrimental. Like many of you, I have an incredible ability to feel like I am not doing enough. I once ended a yoga practice with the teacher reminding us that we are human beings, not human doings. Striking, I thought, but it’s not for me. I MUST be busy or I’m not doing enough.
So as I’m sipping my already luke-warm morning coffee, and scrambling in preparation for the day, I also feel a need to be listening to an audiobook. Because, you know, “not-busy-enough-guilt” is real.
RELATED READING :: Hey Mama, You Could be Doing Better
Today’s notes scribbled on the back of a shopping list were about habit-tracking, courtesy of James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”. While measuring habits is a research-backed concept proven to set you up for success, Goodhart’s Law states that “When a measure becomes the target, it ceases to become a good measure”. Woah. Just how often do I do this?
Ever get mad that you forgot your fit bit or your Apple Watch and don’t know how many steps you’ve taken that day? Or forget to post that sweet picture of your family outing on Facebook, so it feels like it never happened? We live in a celebratory, goal-crushing, DO culture and we’ve adapted almost too-well to the pressures to prove our worth.
So where else in my life have I ever lost focus on the target, instead fixating on the measure?
February 23rd marked the one year anniversary of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. He was a young black jogger, who was pursued and gunned down by white supremacists on February 23 (thus the 2.23 mile distance). Almost a year prior, my kids and I participated in the #irunwithmaud social media event. I reasoned that it was a simple, yet concrete way to show support. An opportunity to have a very real, very awful conversation with my children about the reality of race relations and injustice in our country. We laced up, applied some sunblock and I pressed “start” on my mileage tracker app, and I did it again this year on my own.
I used a tracker when I ran because I wanted to make sure to run exactly 2.23 miles. I use a tracker almost every time I run. Why is it so important I know my distance? I am not training for an event, the coach in me knows that time and effort are much more important markers than distance alone… There it is again. Measures as targets. “If I run 3 miles today, I can have a desert.” So if I run 2.85 but at a better pace and with more efficient recovery, somehow I’m undeserving of that tiramisu?
In habit-tracking, in anti-racist work, and maybe just in life – using a measure as your target can be detrimental. How many people are #runningwithmaud for the wrong reasons? Because they want to participate in a trend, rather than change the trend of racism in America? And if they are, is that actually a problem, or does the intent even matter so long as the outcome is desired? Where’s the line? Who’s drawing the line? Is #runningwithmaud a measure, (a posturing of sorts) or a target (steps to the desired outcome)?
Years ago, I heard someone mumble. “…And liberty and justice for some of us” during the Pledge of Allegiance. It still haunts me that a pledge we encourage all students to recite, isn’t true for so many of them, and that I don’t know when it will change.
I do know this:
In my quest to draw back the curtains of my own white privilege, I might get it wrong. I may alienate those who I try to lift up. I may be called out for attempting to be a white savior, a false ally, a virtue-signaling Karen.
And I will keep my head low, and my mouth closed. I will apologize, and I will listen, learn and commit to being there for the conversation, even when my ego and pride make me want to run away. I will lead with kindness and compassion. And by doing all of this I will raise children whom I hope will one day be able to honestly utter the last line of our Pledge of Allegiance, “And liberty, and justice for all.”