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I think I’m a good person, but how do I know?

Do you know anyone who doesn’t think they are good? All people who are functioning normally in society think of themselves as good. But that doesn’t mean their actions exemplify goodness. If people do bad behavior they can always justify it – which is to say people define their behavior as not really bad, and they themselves are not really bad. People are not the best self-judges.

Have you ever done a food journal? It can be surprising, because you don’t always pay attention to what you eat, even though you think you do. Looked at from a “helicopter view” perspective, eating can look different. Again, it’s because we can’t always know judge ourselves.

The Pew Research Center surveyed 3,000 people and found that almost 70% of Americans track their health in some way. This is good, because statistically better health results from tracking than not. However, when going deeper into the study, half of the respondents just measure the data “in their heads”, without writing it down. Left to our own devices, we might not be the most accurate judges.

The Nielsen rating company used to have families write down their TV consumption, in order to determine viewership. Later, when they went to have a box on TVs that automatically tracked what people watched, the data was remarkably different. We are the not the most accurate judges of ourselves. Do you really want to tell Nielsen you watched 59 minutes of Match Game reruns on Game Show Network? Or switching on 2 minutes on the news is not actually “watching” the news?

Of course, you can be fine with all of this. You can say, it’s not necessary to know. I don’t want to put more judgement on myself. Why be negative? Why can’t we just be happy with ourselves?

Fair enough. But perhaps, if you are curious, if you do want to learn more, you start with a possible truth: it’s hard to know yourself. And if you do want to understand yourself more, then perhaps your ways of tracking need to change.

Image: http://www.fastcoexist.com/multisite_files/coexist/imagecache/960/article_feature/1280-measuring-social-good.jpg

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2 thoughts on “Tracking

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