October 3, 2022

Quantified self: track your happiness and take action

The first step to any type of change is awareness. Once we see the possibility of change, we determine a course of action and act.

The first step to any type of change is awareness. Once we see the possibility of change, we determine a course of action and act. We've been told again and again that data is king, and data is also the core of the “quantified self” movement. “Quantified self” is a term that refers to self-knowledge through self-tracking. Once data is collected the next step is to interpret the data, to reflect on it, to give it meaning, and to act on it going towards a meaningful self.

The term “quantified self” was Coined by Wired magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007, to refer to "a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking". This movement has exploded in recent years thanks to the advance in technology, the democratization of technology and the basic human desire to improve.

In this busy world, devices and apps have stepped in to remind us to go to bed, spend less time on the phone and even to move regularly. We use them to measure our steps, our performance, what we eat, how we sleep, well, there is a way to track pretty much anything.

All the way back to Pythagoras's Golden Verses, to later figures like Benjamin Franklin and to people of our days like Barak Obama, the concept of measuring as a way of becoming aware and being able to improve, existed independent of technology. Echoing on of the Golden Verses's premise “Never allow sleep to close your eyelids after you went to bed until you have examined all your actions of the day by your reason”, Benjamin Franklin came up with his own system to track 13 virtues on a daily basis. Every night he would assess temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility. The result in Benjamin Franklin's words: “I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined, but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.”

Our values and emotions, including happiness, can't be tracked automatically. Therefore it's easy to fall into a constant state of pre-contemplation (not yet considering change, unwilling or unable to change) or contemplation (seeing the possibility of change but uncertain) without ever finding determination and taking action to create happiness. There are a number of apps available to track happiness but rely on you to input data manually which creates a barrier compared to our devices that track the rest for us automatically.

Nevertheless, happiness is something we all want to have in our lives and the lives of our loved ones, and as established, it takes awareness to be able to act. So my proposal to you it's to start small. Start tracking small things every day, become aware of your emotions and what is causing them. In order to help you start on this journey, I've put together an easy framework for you. It only takes 2 minutes in total and I'll argue we can all shorten our social media time by 2 minutes. More often than not, we are not mindful of our changing moods or the factors that affect them. Taking action and tracking them will provide you with self-awareness, self-knowledge and a course of action.

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” Abraham Maslow

When it comes to the quantified self, the next step, which is technology on our skin, is already here. Companies such as Veristable or Clear already use technology on the skin, which acts like your metabolic compass revealing the foods that help you feel and perform at your best.

While some apps exist today, the moment people become interested in tracking their levels of happiness and satisfaction I am sure we will be witnessing a technological revolution to allow us to better track our emotions. Until then, take action and a few minutes of your day to become happy/happier by using my simple tools to gather the data and act upon it.

Send me and email for a copy of the free tracking tools.

Written by Andreea Pap

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