On Measuring a Day’s Success

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” ~Booker T. Washington

How do you measure a day’s success?

For some time, I tried keeping tons of “To Do” lists among pages of scribbles and lists of ideas and projects. I thought that constantly exposing myself to a wide array of ideas, thoughts, plans, projects, and goals repeatedly would help the ideas ferment, push me to put the ideas into action and see to it that all those tasks, goals and projects would be fulfilled.

As I used these lists as a constant reminder of my goals and objectives, they likewise became a measure of each day’s work and a measure for each day’s success.

However, I quickly realized that there is little merit in using lists to measure a day’s success. On the one hand, if you set forth to accomplish a variety of tasks on a given day (or over some period of time), one can find great satisfaction in striking off each task upon completing it.  But is this really a valuable way to measure the success of a day?

The problem that arises is:

  • If the number of tasks you complete in a day is the way one measures a day’s success, then by contrast the number of tasks one neglects to complete would, likewise, reflect upon the day as a failure.

Truly, one cannot measure a day’s success simply by the number of tasks one has completed, gotten done or accomplished. For by this measure, a day’s value is only in getting “things” done. In measuring a day’s success this way, we forget completely the many other simple occurrences, human interactions and pleasantries that make life special and that are so much more important to our soul’s development than “stuff” on a list.

Consider how valuable ordinary occurrences are to our development in life and to the lives of others around us:

  • Making a dejected young cousin smile — twice — after a loss in his baseball game.
  • Waiting a couple seconds longer than usual to hold the door for someone walking into a store behind you
  • Paying a friend or relative a sincere compliment
  • Smiling at a stranger and saying hello

An accurate measuring one’s productivity would be to keep lists of tasks and goals one intends accomplish.  However, when it comes to measuring a day’s success, there are many valuable aspects of everyday life that we’d never think to put on a list — all of which are more important than any task we can strike on paper.

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