Create a measure around an activity and it becomes a target. Make the measure popular on social media and it becomes an obsession.

I started investing because it allowed me a pace of my choosing, and a set of activities I considered more leisure than work. When the opportunity came for doing it full time, to me the decision was obvious. It seemed like a good way to earn while doing activities I’d anyways do when rich.

I became a professional. That means I had to have a measure of my performance. Get onto sheets, create a portfolio worksheet, link it to live quotes. Boom! I have a portfolio tracker.

But that changed my life. The availability of instant measure of return changed me.

I considered myself a long term investor, not affected by short term gyrations… but why is my return down a percentage point today? These stocks are down 10% from where I bought, should I sell them as they are affecting my portfolio return. I am falling behind the nifty return, am I good enough?

Then as most professionals do, I joined some whatsapp / Twitter groups of full time investors. My goal in life changed from leading a life doing what I enjoy to being the best amongst the set — not even being sure what best means — everyday someone came up with some X-bagger, I had to beat him — own a stock do better than that, and quicker than that. The focus shifted from business quality, long term performance, to price action.

Without realising, I became a trader — I have nothing against traders, it is just that I did not enjoy the thrills associated. But I became trapped.

We all have similar stories — social media itself thrives on measures — number of friends, followers, likes, views etc. It also serves as a catalyst for other measures — some obvious ones like marathon time, fasting days, etc and maybe some not so obvious ones like position relative to peers, places seen etc. They take away the pleasure of doing and convert it into pleasure of achieving. They become status substitutes.

Measures are important, they help you measure. Without it, you can get lost. Done rightly they aid progress. But we run the risk of getting lost when we confuse the measure with the real thing.

Not all of them are bad, but all of them influence us. Some are really about what we enjoy and share. Some become all about meeting and beating the measure, or the other person.

Choose carefully the measures you measure by, think how well it represents what you wish to achieve, and be aware that it isn’t static but evolves.