It seems that there is a growing interest in tracking our behaviors, our sleep, our activity level, the number of steps we take in a day. It is not surprising, and certainly not a new concept to self-monitor our behavior. There is even solid research supporting self-monitoring as something that in and of itself can result in positive behavioral changes. I regularly encourage my clients to track their progress and note patterns of both negative symptoms and positive successes.
However, there is a point when the tracking can be taken too far. While self-awareness can produce positive characteristics in us and facilitate personal growth, self-obsession can be debilitating, especially when tied to numbers or qualities of our performance that serve as an external basis for self-worth.
Here are a few helpful questions to ponder when considering whether your tracking is more of a help or a hindrance:
1) What am I tracking, and how important is that thing in my overall sense of self-worth and effectiveness?
If you are tracking steps taken per day, for instance, this may provide some feedback about your overall activity level, which certainly impacts your health and possibly your longevity. But it may detract from your quality of life if you spend more time and effort generating and tracking steps than tracking the quality of the people, places, and activities to which your steps are taking you.
2) How much time and effort do I spend tracking and analyzing the data of my everyday life?
Name the things you are tracking, and how much time and effort you spend on them (on a scale of one to ten). Now name the five things that are most important to you, including more abstract and harder to measure aspects of life such as love, faith, benevolence, generosity and self-care. Make some adjustments if the things you spend the most time on do not match the things you most value.
3) Could I take a tracking “vacation” and still connect with an internal, unchanging source of self-worth that does not differ based on my numbers or performance? (Try it!)
If you took a week off from tracking your sleep, eating, weight, etc., would it result in anxiety? Would it be a relief? For a healthy foundation, connect with internal and unchanging characteristics you see in yourself, such as sense of humor, gifts and passions, interests- all of what makes you who you are. Do people in your life seem more or less concerned about the data you track? Do you think their love and care for you depends on what the numbers say?