Mel Schwartz, LCSW

#136 Stop the Measuring!

In The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz 136, I ask: can we stop measuring, quantifying, comparing, and rating our experiences?

Rating and measuring is another kind of judgement: judgement of others; judgement of ourselves. It helps us define things and maintain that safe, comfortable certainty that might seem beneficial… but what about curiosity? Wonder? Awe?

Let’s look at why an obsession with measurement and quantification is actually counter to our mental and emotional help, and talk about some alternatives ways of living and thinking.

I’d love to hear what you think! Be sure to leave a comment with your own thoughts and questions!

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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #136

Hello everybody and welcome to the Possibility Podcast. I’m your host Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.

Hello. A few days ago, I was meandering down the streets and alleys of old historical Charleston, which is where I’m currently living. And every 50 or 100 feet, you’ll come past a remarkable old home with some signage up front commemorating the history of that home. Who built it? Who founded it? Who handed it down to whom? What was their relevance historically during the era of the American Revolution? Sometimes before that time, sometimes shortly after.

And I began to think about it, how different it was to walk past these homes and look at the history. Imagine what it was like to live there, to live those lives. What a feeling. How different it is than walking through other neighborhoods in this country. Many of those neighborhoods I used to reside in.

Well, when you walk past a home, the conversation was, what do you think it’s worth? What would it sell for? What did they pay for it? What do you think the profit would be? When we look that way, what we’re doing is measuring and quantifying. We’re not looking at the historical significance, considering the lives of the people who live there. We live in a culture now that so prioritizes that which we can measure, that which we can quantify. It actually overwhelms the way we think.

Quantifying, think about rankings. You’re going to choose a new restaurant to eat in or perhaps visit a new doctor. We look at the Google reviews. How many stars did they get? What’s their ranking? What’s their rating? How much is a quantification?

Children, kids in school, what are their grades? What will those grades enable them to do in terms of what colleges they will get into? What were your SAT scores or ACT scores?

Our health of course is quantified by lab results and I understand that we need to do that, but there’s no quantification. There’s no measurement for happiness or for love. You see the really important things in life are things we can’t quantify. The quantifying is often about winning or losing.

Many years ago I was working with a young man who was a nationally ranked tennis player. I should say nationally seeded tennis player. I was curious and I asked him if he had played any other sports and he said no, never did. And I asked him why not? He said well I wasn’t good enough.

See there’s the measuring. I wasn’t good enough to play other sports. How about the enjoyment of playing other sports even if you’re not good? I shared with him that when I was young I loved playing baseball. I was average, maybe slightly above average. If I were living his life where everything is quantified and measured I never would have played baseball. What a loss that would have been.

How good are you at it? How are you measuring yourself? In my therapy practice I have at times counseled people who are really focused on their tennis game and what gets in the way of their enjoying that tennis game and actually paradoxically gets in their way of improving is their measuring of themselves. You can’t be in the flow of an activity and measure yourself. So the irony is to excel you need to be in flow. You can’t be in flow if you’re measuring yourself.

This adage in our culture that we always need to do our best. Always in the word always. If you always need to do your best that’s a compulsion. It’s a pathology. Shouldn’t there be times when you don’t have to do your best? Doing your best is a measurement isn’t it? Why do you always have to do your best? Why do you always have to measure yourself? Should you always do your best and feel neurotic about it? What would the sacrifice be for doing that?

The measuring of yourself does harm to yourself. Now I am not proposing that we shouldn’t set goals for ourselves and try to improve and succeed but the inner measuring of ourselves can be destructive because we’re both the measured and the measure at the same time. In other words it causes us to fragment from our own self measuring ourselves.

Let’s come back to the culture as a whole. The measuring is so pervasive. We look at polling as we are coming upon a new presidential election and I understand we need to look at polls to get some sense of value around where things are headed but there’s this pervasive measuring good, best, better. How much money have I earned this year? Am I earning more next year? Is my net worth increasing, flat or decreasing?

Often we want to know those things but to get lost in the measurement is to lose the flow of life. What are the goals in life? Health, happiness, joy, thriving in relationships? Those values have nothing or little to do with measuring. So my argument here is that this perverse measuring, quantifying of everything removes us, it diverts us from the true joys of life. The quantification of life. Life becomes a game to win, challenges to transcend and overcome but the quantification of our lives leaves no space for our heart, for our soul, for our well-being, for compassion, for empathy, the values that make lives thrive and provide connections with one another.

I might also suggest that we lose our connectivity to nature and we lose our connectivity to one another when our thoughts are constantly quantifying and measuring. Go out for a walk, I find myself doing this, I’m measuring how fast am I running. I get why I want to achieve, I want to get my heart rate up, I want to build my physical resilience but could I ever just take a run for the joy of taking a run? Could I ever not turn on my devices and measure how well did I do?

There needs to be balance and that balance in some ways requires our being aware of our measuring and quantifying everything or too much, taking a step back and saying to ourselves stop measuring and just start being.

Let’s reach a balance between the necessary pieces of measurement, quantifying and those pieces that are excessive and not necessary. Being at one with yourself, being present, being truly present in the conversation with another requires no quantifying and no measuring. So just think about it, try to notice your thoughts tendency to measure and quantify and step back and think to yourself I don’t need to go there that often, I can go there selectively but to go there in a compulsive way where my mind is entrained to always measure I lose myself, I lose my connection to wonder, curiosity.

Think about wondering curiosity, there’s no measuring there. When we have conversations with others do we often ask or think to ourselves I wonder what they meant by that, do I ask? Probably not, you see wondering curiosity have been subordinated as a value and they’ve been replaced by predictability, determinism, measurement, quantifying.

You know you’ve heard me speak so much about determinism and seeking certainty, there’s a measuring in that. If I can collect enough data I can predict the future. Well good luck with that, you can but even if you can it means you’re not present, you’re off trying to predict the future event when you ever really hear. The wonder being present, there’s no measurement in there.

So I hope some of the thoughts I’m sharing with you today can provide some insights, some new framework, a shift in the way you think and quiet down that rambunctious noise that makes us measure far too much.

Until next time embrace some uncertainty, seek some possibilities, quiet your measuring and be well. Bye for now.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at mel at or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at If you like what you’re hearing please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show and it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts and that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again and please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.

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