Judgement Creep

A brilliant Harvard study in the 1940’s asked participants early in their careers and marriages what things or accomplishments would make them happy. The list was extensive, down to the size of television, number of cars in the garage, household income, freedom to travel, level of education etc. 

The study identified a 40% gap between what study participants had and what they didn’t have but thought would make them happy. Brilliantly though, it also followed participants for decades. Much later in life, even though nearly everyone had acquired or accomplished the milestones and tangible goods or salaries that they previously said would make them happy, a 40% gap still existed between what they now had and what they thought would make them happy in the future. 

This phenomenon is called judgement creep and it lurks in all of us. We have the tendency to continually raise our threshold for success as we make progress. Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues explain.  

“When problems become rare, we count more things as problems.” 

When I show up and identify how many dispensing opportunities are being missed in your practice, how many patients aren’t converting, and how low your average dispense value is, as a forward-thinking, success-driven high achiever, you’ll naturally want to fix those things.  

Here’s the challenge. Once you’ve fixed them and boosted conversion, and multiple pairs and upgrades and sky-rocketed your average dispense value, can you stop and celebrate the win, giving credit to everyone around you or do you start looking for new problems that don’t exist? Do you go searching for more things to count as problems? 

The research suggests that when our lives and our practices become better, we become harsher critics of them, and this can cause us to erroneously conclude that things actually haven’t gotten any better at all. 

So be aware of the phenomenon of judgement creep and give yourself and your team some credit.  

Where have things gotten better in your practice in the last 12 months?  

Are you taking time to celebrate the areas that have actually gotten better in your practice and life or are you only ploughing ahead looking for more things to count as problems? 

Listen, the happiest and most successful people can see the big picture. 

They embrace the long road. They enjoy the journey. 

Take a moment and think about this unique concept of judgement creep and understand that you’re never going to completely eradicate it from your life. Just like you probably want 40% more than you have right now, judgement creep will cause you to want 40% more in the future as well, even after you’ve achieved what you said would make you happy.  

Be aware of this. Learn how to strive and grow and set big, exciting goals, but also be happy where you are on the journey. Learn to dance with judgement creep. 

 The future is bright!