The Defining Numbers

By: Shoshanah Marcus  |  October 25, 2021

By Shoshanah Marcus, Editor in Chief

Numbers control our lives. From grade point averages (GPA) to bank balances to body mass index (BMI) and caloric intake to likes and followers on social media, and to even the time ticking by on our clocks at this very moment, it seems that the numbers game is controlling every aspect of our existence. While many may find comfort in this or have found “lucky” numbers to play along, others feel an overwhelming exception to fit into society’s quantitatively-driven expectations.

As college students prepare to transition from childhood into adulthood, many fall victim to this societal pressure and become obsessed with numbers. Many feel the cold rush of anxiety when thinking about their GPA, graduate school test scores, the number of days until their next exam, and even what time their next class begins. For some, this anxiety begins at a young age, especially with the immense pressure that students feel to get certain test scores and look a certain way to meet societal expectations.

At times, this fixation on quantitative measures can lead to unnecessary and overwhelming stress. Getting back a bad exam score can lead one into a tunnel visioned frenzy. The number on the scale can turn some to unhealthy behaviors. In our technologically-driven age, now more than ever people feel the overwhelming power of statistics and sums.

It seems odd, then, that we allow numbers to control us, especially considering that many well-known and societally-deemed ‘successful’ people haven’t always followed the statistics for conventional ‘success.’ In Ilya Pozin’s “Why Many ‘C’ Students End Up Most Successful” Pozin states, “For every CEO of a major company that graduated with a 4.0 GPA, there are scores more who did not.” Pozin includes that some of the most successful people did not succeed in school, many even dropping out, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Thomas Jefferson, John D. Rockefeller, and Walt Disney. Therefore I must ask: are these numbers deserving of the regard in which they are held?

Perhaps the numerical “failings” are not failures but rather an aspect of societal expectations in which  one may not conform. Numbers may be a controlling factor in society, but they do not have to define us. One’s success and self-worth should not be measured quantitatively but rather qualitatively. Pozin explains, “What matters… in life, is pursuing goals with a sense of purpose. Having ambition and directing that ambition toward a problem.”

At the end of our lives, we won’t remember what our SAT or ACT score was; we won’t regret not getting 10,000 steps every day; we won’t even contemplate investing in Bitcoin. What makes life meaningful is the quality that surrounds us: our mental and physical health, good friends and family, acts of kindness, and living an overall mindful life.