I love clear and correct answers

I am a pretty analytical person. Ever since I was little, math was always my favorite subject and I found that I understand everything better when numbers were involved. When I was really little, I did the stereotypical counting-ducks-in-the-bathtub activity, except my mom likes to remind me that instead of my parents helping me count, it would instead go something like this: Baby Marta would count her bathtub toys “One…two…three…five…six” and then I would look up and stare at my parents, with a slight grin, trying to see if they noticed that I skipped the number four.

Then, when I got a little bit older..well…at least old enough to do addition and subtraction, I would do “fun” activities in the car. As most children on car rides, I quickly got impatient (this was back before the days of iPads, iPods, and smartphones) just sitting in the car so my parents decided to engage me by playing a game. We would start at zero and add one every time my dad passed another car and subtract one every time another car passed us. I’m sure not every kid would find this fun but as someone who loved numbers and math, I found this to be a blast!

In school and at home I loved math because there was always a clear and correct answer. No one could tell me 2 plus 2 equaled 6 and no one could argue math.. at least not at the most basic level of math that you learn in elementary school. After learning addition and subtraction, I remember moving on to learning percentages and fractions. This stuff made sense to me to an extent. If I walk into a store and a $10.00 item is 50% off, then it would cost me $5.00…easy enough!

Can you measure niceness?

But I get confused when people use percentages to indicate something that is not quantitative.  What do I mean by that? I mean when people say things like “This will lead to a 5% increase in productivity among employees” or “The world would be a much better place if every individual was 1% nicer.” How exactly do you measure productivity or how nice people are? That seems arbitrary and subjective.  

I recently had a conversation with someone, which inspired me to write this post and to reflect on what was said to me. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I do remember that the person I was talking to said “Imagine what the world would be like if everyone was 1% nicer.” Initially, I thought oh that sounds great, I can be 1% nicer! But then after a few moments I realized what does being 1% nicer actually mean? How can I make sure I’m exactly 1% nicer?

Why does niceness have to be measured like that though? I feel like quantifying every last detail in our lives, including how nice we are, ends up limiting us. We limit how many good or nice things we do. We end up thinking Ok. I need to be 1% nicer. Maybe today I will yield to another car in front of me in bumper to bumper traffic instead of inching along to make sure no cars can squeeze in front. Alright, that makes me 1% nicer than yesterday.

What we can do?

We try to quantify things that can not accurately be measured as a way to try to associate numbers and percentages with everything, even if it doesn’t quite make a lot of sense. I think a lot of people enjoy knowing exactly how much better or cheaper or nicer something is going to be. To say “I want to start saving more money” or “My goal is to be a nicer person” is not enough. It has to be quantified to some exact percentage (saving X% of income or being X% nicer). But sometimes numbers aren’t the most important thing. I think reflecting on the positive things in our lives and how we can spread positivity is the most important.

If we all take a few minutes to reflect on our day to day routine I’m sure we could come up with at least ONE act of kindness that we could do to help someone out. In a world where so many scary, terrible things happen, every act of kindness counts, and no act is too small! So try not to obsess over percentages when it comes to things in life that aren’t easily quantified and work on making small, daily improvements, since it’s much easier to start with one act of kindness a day and go from there, instead of trying to figure out how exactly you can become 1% nicer.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant need for us to quantify every part of our lives? Do you think it actually is possible to quantify how nice we are? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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6 thoughts on “Can You Really Be One Percent Nicer?

  1. As someone who’s also very analytical, I can completely relate with you! I found studying engineering to be pretty difficult, because I wasn’t used to all the open endedness involved. In high school, I would always have a step by step process to solve all my homework problems, and there would always be a clear answer that you would end up with. On the other hand, I found a lot of our engineering problem sets to have a variety of solutions, and methods to even get started. The solution could even be different based on your assumptions!

    However, just like you said, sometimes numbers aren’t the most important thing, and I’m finding that in my work, the being very cookie cutter just doesn’t…well, cut it 🙂 I’m so used to being given step by step instructions on how to complete a task, that I was initially thrown off when I started working. I was given a task, but no instructions on how to do it – I had to figure it all out on my own! But by staying positive and learning more about the resources that I could use to solve my problems, I feel more confident about being given an ambiguous problem to solve now. Not sure how this relates to the topic of your blog anymore, but I guess it kind of still relates since we should be looking for the overall picture instead of details like percentages!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Allen! 🙂 Yeah certain tasks can definitely be hard as such analytical people but sometimes the more ambiguous things can also be kinda cool to figure out too!

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  2. I’ve always been a numbers-oriented person and sometimes that’s translated to other areas of my life in not-so-healthy ways (e.g. weight, money, etc.). I agree that I don’t think it’s possible (or healthy) to try to quantify things like kindness. It’s better to just be intentional about loving those around you to the extent that you can. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Claire! 🙂 Well said about being intentional about loving those around us! I feel like in today’s society it’s too easy to get caught up in numbers and sometimes it isn’t all too healthy unfortunately!

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