The Changes That Matter but Cannot Be Measured

Tree in winter

Life is about change. Its evolutionary impulse compels us to seek growth and improvement.

We start with satisfying basic survival needs and move towards the higher needs of self-discovery and trying to answer questions like: Who am I? Or why am I here? What’s the purpose of life?

The hard questions remain unanswered, and the seeking continues. In the mean time, we’re still growing. But we usually don’t take notice.

How do we measure our progress intellectually, spiritually, or emotionally?

These are all internal processes that cannot be quantified or standardized.

Whether you take on a spiritual practice like mediation, yoga, or study religion or philosophy, the changes cannot be measured precisely.

Sometimes the results are not even noticeable, unless we magically reach a state of transcendence, or have a seismic aha moment that shifts our consciousness. In most cases though things don’t change on that massive scale, and we feel discouraged, simply because we don’t see any results.

Before I get into more detail about the changes we tend to overlook in our self-actualization expedition, I’d like to emphasize one point.

We’re all spiritual seekers. Even the most materialistic of us are on a spiritual journey. They just don’t know it.

Adventure, romance, accumulation of wealth and status all boil down to one thing: wanting to be happy. The happiness we all seek is in essence contentment—one of the basic tenets of spirituality.

Regardless of the type of change, every change we experience generates inner feelings and memories.

Keeping this in mind, let’s take a closer look at internal changes.

The nature of inner change

A slight shift in thinking, a calmer approach to challenges, a lighter life perspective, or a kinder attitude towards ourselves, and much more can be:

Unremarkable: A slight shift in perspective may not be a big deal on its own.

Small and slow: Letting go of limitation and emotional hang-ups is not an overnight transformation. It may happen to some quickly, but for the rest of us, it will take its sweet time, one small step at a time.

Accidental: Let’s say you start a meditation practice to calm your mind, but your monkey mind continues to buzz. Yet you feel you have better focus, an unintended byproduct that may not be considered an achievement on its own.

So the question is:

How can we measure the immeasurable? Can we quantify meaning?

Every quantifiable metric is made-up by someone. Instead of trying to find an aspect of change to measure by using such rigid standards, we can focus on inner experiences to continue to grow in a meaningful way.


Joy is the most important measure of anything that truly matters in life.

We all enjoy breathing, having good health, and connecting with loved ones.

If you’re like me, you probably enjoy having more peace and awareness, less resistance, and more love and acceptance—all internal changes.

Whatever you’re doing in the name of self-growth, do it because you enjoy it. Do it for its own sake. And the inner changes will unfold naturally without much effort. When you struggle with something, you’ll add to your stress.

Either stop what you’re not enjoying, or find the magic in it and do it with a new perspective.

So meditate because you enjoy it. Read and learn for learning’s sake. Question and contemplate for the fun of it.

Joy robbers Consider the following joy robbers when assessing your experience:

  • Tight deadlines: If you’re racing to that finish line, you’ll hardly be able to catch your breath, let alone enjoy the experience.
  • Intensity: The harder you have to work at something, the more difficult it will be to preform, and the less enjoyable it will be. It’s better to break it down into smaller chunks over an extended period of time.
  • Competition: Competing is an achievement metric that, in my view, adds stress more than it adds motivation. If you focus on your experience, without much regard to how others are doing, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying yourself.

If you meditated without experiencing a calmer mind, but enjoyed the quiet time you had to yourself, you’ve added to the joy of the world. And that’s a success in my book.

Joy helpers

Two inner experiences that can add to your joy and success are:

Letting go

I feel the most transformative inner changes are the direct result of letting go of the pain of the past, fears of the future, disappointments, expectations, and self-imposed beliefs.

Letting go lightens the heart and brightens the soul. It will pave the way for more joy.


One can argue that trust is an act of letting go of control and allowing life to unfold.

When we came into this life, we fully trusted everything and everyone. We trusted that we would have someone to feed us, care for us, and love us.

We trusted that life would allow us to grow and express our highest joy. We didn’t think of what could go wrong, or how we’d measure up compared to the rest of humanity.

Life starts with trust.

Trust that:

  • You’re doing the best you can and life is doing the best it can to support you. Change always takes its natural course.
  • Everything is perfect now, even when we can’t see it that way.
  • You’ll always be loved and cared for by the energy of life that permeates your being and our entire existence—no matter what.

When fear shows up (and it will from time to time), embrace it with all your heart and wrap it in a warm blanket of trust. Reassure your fears that they’re loved and cared for by all of life.

The beauty of this approach—joy x (letting go + trust)—is that it can be used to grow organically in any chosen area.

If you continue to do something for its own sake, without yearning for what is to come, you will change. You’ll build a skill over time and you will have fun doing it. More importantly, you will not be fighting life while seeking happiness from life.

The best kind of transformation is the one that you don’t seek. It comes ever so gently on its own. And if you trust and let life be, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.