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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