In explaining analysis I chose an example taken from work, and for many of us this is where the realm of analysis ends. It never ceases to amaze me how many folks can operate with meticulous, analytical principles within their professional careers, while leaving their personal lives to whim and fancy. It is as if they are living two lives: The Analytical Life at Work and a directionless one in their personal lives. I call this the work life paradox.
Part of this work life paradox may be that as a culture we don’t consider our personal lives open to analysis. It is emotionally easier to analyze our work lives than our deepest relationships and habits. In some ways it is easier to be more honest when analyzing our work selves because we can be more honest. It is far easier to admit that a work project has fallen short, than to admit that we’ve fallen into a bad habit.
However, I also think it’s far easier to Live Analytically at work than at home because at work we have clear goals and outcomes, while our personal lives don’t. We are lucky enough to live at a time in history where our values are not predetermined for us, but we are now burdened with the weight of determining our values for ourselves. And what’s worse: many of us don’t. How can we perform an analysis if we can’t determine what success means in the first place? How can we determine a path toward an optimal outcome, if we don’t know what the outcome should be in the first place? That’s why determining your values is the first step toward living The Analytical Life.
The Analytical Life Requires Values
We need to determine our values in order to live analytically because our principles and analysis require a foundation: we cannot hope to measure and improve our lives if we don’t know what we’re measuring against (or toward). In business, the underlying value is usually the economic success of the company, but of course there are other values as well–treating employees and customers well, being timely, etc– which support this core value. In some ways this also why the work life paradox persists – values are easily defined in a business. Many of us already know our core personal value if we haven’t articulated it. Family, success, impact, making a positive difference–these are common ones. If you’re not sure where to start, you can begin by making a list of possible values, and crossing them off the list until there is only one left. It’s also important to revisit your core value every now and again, there’s a high likelihood it will change over time. Anyway, it’s good to understand what your most important value is, and then assemble a list of 3-5 supporting values which either support your core value or are also important to you.
While knowing your values is necessary, many people can name what’s important to them while still not living The Analytical Life because they have not done the work of self-reflection and analysis which is required to connect their activities and habits to those values. Once you have your values established, you should analyze how you’re spending your time to determine whether or not your life is currently aligned toward your values.
For example, I have a tendency to spend a good amount of time browsing Reddit (some weeks it can be 5 hours plus). While one of my values is growth and another learning, I realized a lot of content I was consuming on Reddit wasn’t adding to those values (cat memes, for example). I went through all of my subreddit subscriptions and unsubscribed from all the subreddits I felt weren’t aligned with those values (bye r/Funny), but kept the ones I felt did, like r/DataScience. I also uninstalled the app from my phone to limit my mobile use. Not surprisingly, my time browsing Reddit has gone down drastically.
I noticed a situation in my life, and was better able to analyze it and act on it because I understood how it aligned (or didn’t) with my values. Once you have your values down, you can further improve your ability to analyze with goals.