Deep Thoughts

On Feats

There are different kinds of feats. "Process" feats involve sticking to a routine. Sitting for ten minutes in silence each day, for example, or going Paleo, or giving up "food on the run" for a month. Such feats lend themselves to daily tracking, to "hold oneself accountable." Other feats involve acquiring a skill or achieving a result, such as being able to dive fearlessly into a swimming pool or crushing a certain workout (or wearing out one's dog), or, say, losing five pounds. The achievement of any sort of feat, however, whether process or result, feels good — and it stands forever, even if the skills, results, or processes, atrophy with time.

People need goals to focus their mind. It's true that some people seem to maintain a routine, simply for the sake of the routine, without regard to any notion of progress. Many of us pay very little attention to our sleep habits, for example — we sleep without setting goals for that sleep, or we eat, or go to the gym, or have sex without any ambition for those activities beyond the status quo. Perhaps that's fine, and our sense of progress comes in other areas: work or family or politics. Or perhaps some of us resign ourselves to phsycial and intellectual stasis across the board, simply seeking an extended repetition of the same comfortable routines. But surely even those of us in this group have some implicit goals, some secret sense of progression or decline. 

These are the thoughts on my mind today, as we continue tinkering with the New Thing and building the Feats of Summer 2.0. What is the right number of goals for a normal adult in the 21st century, and what are the right goals, and when is tracking them appropriate? The answer, no doubt, is "balance," i.e. not too much, and not too little.

Accountants and MBAs argue endlessly over this sort of thing when it comes to companies. "You manage what you measure" is the manager's mantra, and so they debate whether a company should track its profits and losses, or its customers' satisfaction, or its environmental impact, or some amalgem of all three and a dozen others. Publicly traded companies must issue quarterly and annual reports, and disclose any and all material developments to their investors. The debate around "personal accounting" would seem to be far less evolved. There are no "generally accepted accounting guidelines" for the average adult, or related federal agencies busy issuing opinions. And so we pretty much go muddling on in the absence of such accounting. Or do we?

Privately we certainly do track our wealth, our weight, our age, and perhaps how many times we have sex in a given month. Publicly we track the size of our families, how many cities we've traveled to, our sick days, how many friends we have on Facebook, our frequent flyer status, our amateur tennis ranking, etc. So, we do track stuff, and, looking closer, it seems we mostly track "results" feats more than the "process" ones. Fair enough: Results suggest a successful process, no? But what if they don't? Also, what if the results feats we're enamored of aren't necessarily the only or the most interesting ones?

A Buddhist might suggest we consider tracking things like our mood, or the number of positive thoughts we have per hour, or days spent without harming others. "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you," said John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach.  He might want to track perfect days lived.

It's an interesting question: Are you tracking anything at all, and, if so, are these things the right things? Which brings me full circle to the Feats of Summer 2.0 and our Tom Sawyer approach to feat-generation: If you could achieve any feat this summer, whether process or result, what would it be?

John Wooden (Via <a href="http://www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth/archives/2008/10/what-the-hall-m.html">Inside Social</a>.)

Comments

I feel good about all of this; I like the accountability and option for process feats. I'm putting my thinking cap on and will report back!

Kaitlyn's picture

"If you could achieve any feat this summer, whether process or result, what would it be?"

OK, now I REALLY have to go back to the drawing board.  Stay tuned. :)

joesgirl's picture

OK, Oliver, I threw it out there (see post).  I'm three feat suggestions down and with that, joesgirl is stick-a-fork-in-me: DONE. 

joesgirl's picture

In spite of my being awfully quiet on the site lately, I have two fitness goals to knock the back out of by the end of July:

1) For those of you keeping up with my learning-to-run progress, I have signed up for the Central Park Conservancy Run - a whole 4 miles.  Time be damned, my goal is to run from start to finish and my completion of this race will signify to me that I have reached my goal.  If anyone is running or wants to come and cheer, let a girl know. 

2) In a moment of what I can only describe as insanity considering my current schedule, I've signed up for the intenSati Warrior Challenge Rise & Shine (16 classes total) which will require 4 intenSati classes a week, 2 of those each week being 6:30am classes.  The kick off class is at 6:30 the morning after my current show opens in the East Village - just getting to that class is a measurable goal unto itself.

zuzupetals's picture



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