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People are not one number.

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There’s a lot wrong with just boiling people down to one single number or health score. Something that’s either good or bad. It lacks scientific credibility, but that’s not my biggest problem with it. Here’s why I think it really sucks and can actually do more harm than good: it lacks humanity and compassion.

People are complex. They’re mostly in poorer health than they should be, not because they don’t know what healthy looks like, but because they’re scared and overwhelmed. So what’s the antidote to fear? It’s compassion. It’s caring enough to understand people. Compassion doesn’t have a specific agenda. It doesn’t judge or criticize unless it’s genuinely trying to help. It opens up trust and brings warmth and humour. In fact without it, all you’re left with is a bunch of cold mechanical, technological efforts that exhaust everybody and heal nobody.

People are coming out of Covid19 and slowly returning to work and the lives they once knew. But they’re different. Often more damaged and fragile and brittle. Our job is to help you make them whole again. But it’s not by giving them a single score as if everyone has the same opportunity to hit the same target. Dehumanizing someone into one number is far more likely to make them feel weak, helpless and disempowered. The last thing you want to do is to make people feel completely broken.

Don’t rank people. Teach them to fish.

We’ve learned that giving people a balanced, holistic view of themselves is far more conducive to getting them excited about changing their lives. Then, slowly helping them see how working on one element of their health, i.e., getting more sleep, leads to more energy and improved mood, which leads to more exercise, which results in improvements in other areas of their health, i.e., weight loss.

Showing them how focusing on something they felt they could make a dent in (sleep), can help them achieve something they never thought possible (losing weight) empowers them to keep going. But you can only do this by recognizing the whole person. Only then can you help them prioritise where to put their efforts. It’s a much longer game than spitting out a numerical value, but it teaches them to solve their own problems, one at a time. You help them help themselves. You open up a portal to much larger possibilities.

People are not one number. You are not one number. The person you love and who loves you the most in this world is not one number. Neither is your brother or your dad or your child or your best friend or your neighbor. People are people and they’re scared and just doing the best with what they have. They need your help. But if you’re thinking of distilling their entire life down to one number. Don’t. Just don’t. We can show you a better way.

More to explore

Man in a white t-shirt is facing away from the camera. A snake is peeping over his shoulder looking towards the camera.

The deadliest animal in the world isn’t what you think.

“Dad, what’s the most dangerous animal?”.  Now this is a a good question for a Dad who runs a data science business focusing on human health and well-being, because helping people identify and quantify risk so they stay alive (and healthy!) is what we do. At HeadUp Labs, we’re really good helping people identify what their big risks are. But what are the biggest risks to your kids? It’s not something like heart attacks or strokes… so, what is it? Hint: it’s something much bigger.