Scales


Judgement comes in all the time, every day. There is no judgement “switch” in which you can flip on and off. Instead, there’s just judgement, all the time.

Consider writing a test. As soon as you get your test back, you look at the mark and you form a judgement. It’s quick, but it always happens. You see the number on your test, and you brain quickly analyzes it to tell you if you did well or not.

This may seem obvious, but consider what that judgement is based on. After all, judging is a comparative thing. It’s hard to judge one thing without some sort of reference point. Saying that a person is intelligent doesn’t actually mean anything substantial, since the term is so loosely defined. Somewhere in that definition though, is a comparison. The person is intelligent compared to another person, or the average.

Now, within that split judgement and comparison is a scale. What do I mean by a “scale”? Simply put, a scale contains reference points that we use to make our judgement on. Going back to the example of the exam, let’s assume the result of the test was ninety. Even as you read this, a judgement and a comparison is running through your head. In an instant, you’ve already decided if the grade of ninety is a good result or not. Put more bluntly, a person who usually scores seventy on exams will be thrilled with a mark of ninety, while the one scoring close to one hundred on everything will be devastated with ninety. Same score, vastly different reactions.

What’s going on here is that there is a scale to these comparisons we make. Think of it as a lens in which we view the world. For some people, that lens is of getting marks near one hundred. For others, that same lens is of passing a test. Same situation, but different ways to approach that situation.

This is important because it shapes how you view the world. If you’re someone whose scale is too demanding, you risk burnout from always getting “bad” results. On the other hand, those who see their work as a step in the right direction have the motivation to keep on going, even when the work is difficult. It’s not that the situations are different, but that the mindset of the person in that situation is different.

Remember, the way you view the world has a huge impact on what you deem “good” is. As a result, the story in your mind about yourself is heavily reliant on that worldview, that scale. Making it too high doesn’t actually change the situation for anyone else, but it does create unrealistic expectations for you that will simply end in frustration.

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. It’s not easy to hear, but it’s okay to make mistakes. Rating yourself on a scale that is unrealistic will only make you unhappy. Instead, focus on telling yourself a realistic, but good story about yourself, and the work will seem to flow that much better.

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