What Should I Measure? What Am I Measuring? Inputs, Outputs, Outcomes, Impacts?

You are NOT measuring what you want. You want your efforts to do something, to mean something. You give your will towards a future you love. When you don’t consciously choose how you engage your will, your creativity, your efforts, your attention, you feel disengaged, like most of the people seem to feel most of the time at work. If you want your efforts to have an impact, then measure your efforts and their impact.

What are you actually measuring? Your impact? Probably not. Lots of research on evaluation shows that most people are measuring inputs or outputs. Not outcomes and impacts.

Two questions. What is the difference? Does it matter? There is a difference, and it does matter. In fact, What You Measure Is What You Pay Attention To (WYMIWYPAT — pronounced “wimy why pat”).

What is the difference? First of all, you get resources to do something that impacts someone else. In organization-speak, you engage and accumulate assets, which you transform into a service or product that others want. In the figure below, there are inputs that flow into the Asset Accumulation, and there are outputs that flow out. These outputs of resources generate outcomes, within the organization, which have impacts for the recipients outside of the organization. [Here are OECD definitions of these terms.]

Differentiating Inflows, Outflows, Outcomes, Impacts

Does it matter? What are you measuring? Most people are measuring INPUTS. Their story is about the number of people they have working, the number of service offices they have, the number of products they have, the inventory available. We are a 12,000-member company with 450 fully-stocked storefronts in 210 communities, providing dozens of services.

Some people tell a narrative about their OUTPUTS. The number of hours worked, the number of meals served, the number of units sold.  Last year, with 120,000 hours of service, we provided 234,000 meals to 56,000 elderly in 700 communities.

With a famous example, you can focus on the number of drills you have (inputs), the number of drills sold (outputs), the sustainability of the profits from the drills sold (outcomes), or the holes drilled (impacts). The famous question is whether the customer wants the drill or the hole that the drill makes.

The main point is that what gets your attention gets your intention. Where you focus is where you act. If you really want your efforts to make a difference, if you want your work to mean something, then you need the feedback from the impacts your efforts have. You need to measure impacts. To be able to adjust what you are doing (outputs), and how well you are doing it (outcomes), you can also measure your outputs and outcomes. To know what resources you need for those activities, you can also measure inputs. The inputs, outputs, and outcomes are in service to your impacts. Understanding them can help you evolve what you do and how you do it to achieve the impacts you want. This gives your efforts meaning, and the ability to evolve your capacity to serve that meaning.

Your choice is to think about how you measure that meaning, the impact of your efforts, in terms of the recipient. Then you can choose how to assess what you do and how you do it to achieve those efforts, on an on-going manner, to continuously improve, to evolve. It is your choice.

How to Talk with Lower-Engagement Leaders

Your way of making sense of the world is clearly useful. It seems to work for you. You got this far. Then you meet people who just don’t see the world as clearly as you do. They seem to see it differently.

While there are many explanations for differences in worldview (different cultures, different languages, different life experiences), one difference we have found to be critical is in what you perceive to be real. Your level of perceived reality.

Do you tend to see reality as that which you can touch? Mostly it is what is directly right here right now, often in quite material terms. That’s real. Or do you also include how things ebb and flow over time, how people develop in new capacities and relationships? It’s about the material and the dynamics of networks of influence. That’s real. Or do you also include the potential you and others see in what is not yet here, in the creative arts? It’s about the outcomes and the learning and the potential. That’s real. Or do you also include the learning from feedback of what actually happens, and how that informs the potential you see, in service to a deeper purpose, and pathways to getting there. It’s about evolutionary co-tangibilizing. That’s real. It turns out that these are four very different perspectives of what is real. And, most people think that theirs is the right and only one, in any given moment. At each of these four levels, you are adding dimensions of reality.

Our global survey research, with over 100,000 people from 125 countries, finds that there is a distribution of people, across these four perspectives of what is real. And, the same people might vary what they perceive to be real depending on the group they are with, the group’s agreements field–how the group engages, transforms, and transfers creative energy.

Communicating with someone who is working with a different perspective of what is real, along this continuum, is very challenging. If you perceive more of reality to exist than they do, they don’t necessarily see you as stronger, rather weaker. That their reality doesn’t include dimensions that yours does means that you are focusing on things that are invisible or irrelevant to them. Those dimensions you find to be so interested are not in their equation.

Here is a 4-step process to communicating with someone with a different perspective of what is real.

Step #1 — Where You Are. The first step to communicating with someone with a different perspective of what is real is to determine where you are, what you include in your perspective of reality. In very simple terms, you can think of these as nouns-only, verbs-nouns, light-verbs-nouns, and ecosystems of sacred hospitality levels of reality.

  • Nouns-only — there are things, mostly material, that are right here right now
  • Verb-nouns — there are things, and there is change over time and space
  • Light-verbs-nouns — there are things, change, and always-present creative potential
  • Ecosystems of sacred hospitality — there are things, change, creative potential, all in an ever-evolving service to a deeper shared purpose

Step #2 — Where They Are. The second step is to determine where they are. How does the person you are communicating with see the world? What do they include in what they perceive to be real?

Step #3 — Understand How They See You from Their Reality. The other person can only see you and your reality from their reality. If your reality has more dimensions than theirs, they don’t see that. Often your attention to and inclusion of these other dimensions creates confusion for them. You are talking about things that are not in their definition of what is real, which usually is interpreted by them as a weakness. What you are going on and on about isn’t real.

The following table provides a first scan of what each perspective of reality experiences when communicating with someone from one of the other perspectives. This is based on what we observe when working with people across levels.

Perceived RealityN SeesVN SeesLVN SeesESH Sees
Ecosystems of Sacred Hospitality (ESH)High-risk explorersLack of alignment on agreed purposeShifting purposeComprehensive clarity (purposeful evolution)
Light-Verbs-Nouns (LVN)Lack of clear focus (high risk ventures)Lack of applying learningsComprehensive clarity (tangibilization)Beingness
Verbs-Nouns (VN)Inefficient, always experimentingComprehensive clarity (learning)Stuck in own thinkingBecoming
Noun-only (N)Comprehensive clarity (efficiency)Static surprise from dynamicsCollapsed in outcomesAlready finished

If they are coming from a perspective with fewer dimensions of perceived reality than you–for example, they see Nouns-only (N) and you see Verbs-Nouns (VN)–they see your focus on learning and developing new capacities and relationships as being inefficient. You are always experimenting with something new, never focused on what you have already done. Always moving on to the next thing and not leveraging what you already have.

Step #4 — How to Communicate with Them. To communicate with them, you are trying to invite them into a reality, yours, that is not part of their reality. It works best to start with remembering what they see as real. If you are a verb-noun-reality person, you might be most excited about sharing your focus on the learning, the verbs. To you the importance of the nouns is obvious and already proven, so you are focused on how to improve on what you already know. To communicate with the Nouns-only person, start by showing that you can speak their language, in their reality. Yes, you have nouns, which you have proven to be efficient. You have outcomes. You are efficient. Now you can ask, what if we could have even more-efficient nouns? You are introducing verbs-nouns dimensions of reality, in terms that a Nouns-only reality can begin to perceive. Focusing only on your leading-edge understanding of the cool features of learning and developing sounds to them like you are not grounded. Stay grounded and add the benefits of some verbs.

This logic works all the way up through the ESH levels. Start with what they can see as real in your world. Then you can begin to see if they might see the value of beginning to add dimensions of the next level.

What do you do if you are communicating with someone whose reality includes higher dimensions than yours? You might be working with a Verbs-Nouns (VN) reality, while they appear to be working from an LVN or ESH level. You might perceive that they can see things you can’t. You can invite them to share what they see. It is most helpful if you clarify with them that it is most useful to you if they can explain it first in terms you can understand–in verbs and nouns. Then they can begin to show you the value of adding dimensions from LVN or ESH. The point is to communicate with others. If you experience that you want to communicate with someone else and that it seems like you are talking about completely different things, while still in relatively the same context, maybe you are assuming different levels of perceived reality. Ask. See if you can get to a shared understanding at the Nouns-only level. Then you can try the Verbs-Nouns level, and so on.

The good news is that we all have all of these levels of perceived reality within us, so we can access all four of these levels of perceived reality. And, the agreements we tend to work with in some groups exclude some of them, making communication difficult. Since you already have the dimensions within you, you can still access them and ask the question. It is your choice.

Go Do Your BIG YES!

Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Various people have attributed this insight to Howard Thurman.

I suggest that you have a big YES! within you. If you look, you will find it. You know when you are aligned with it, when you are in your creative flow. And you know when you are not in it, when your creative energy, your desire to engage and contribute is being extinguished. It is your Yes!, and you are the only who can contribute it in your specific way.

To Maximize Inequality, Collapsing Any Lens (EPCS) Will Do — To Maximize Equality, Requires All 4 Lenses

The crises of the moment, the crises of the century, and the crises of humanity’s evolutionary state all point at the challenges and impacts of structural inequality.  While lots of people are working on this now, many have been working on it for a long time, probably since the beginning of humanity.  To this huge challenge, we add two observations from ecosynomics about what might create structural inequality and what might exist when people experience deep equality.

To maximize inequality, collapsing any lens (EPCS) will do.  To maximize equality requires all 4 lenses.

Inequality.  When you experience a collapse of your agreements to one of deep scarcity, you experience deep inequality. We find that to get to the experience of deep scarcity, all you have to do is collapse the agreements, which you can do by simply collapsing any of the four lenses on agreements: the economic; political; cultural; or social. When any one of these perspectives (lenses) collapses, the whole field of the agreements collapses.  Focus only on tangible resources and take them away [economic collapse].  For decision making and enforcement, regulate to one individual or a small group, who gets to decide and who has the power to enforce [political collapse].  For values, mandate values that submit to the values of the power holder [cultural collapse].  For the rules of the game, focus on efficiency in achieving only the powerholder’s values [social collapse].  If you know this, then stopping the collapse is straightforward. Maybe not easy, but clear. To stop collapse, see the move and counter it, taking away its strength. Make visible other available resources, keep decisionmaking power for others, remind people of other values they also have, increase the rules of the game to include serving other stakeholders.

Equality. While you can focus on one lens to collapse agreements, maximizing equality requires all 4 lenses. In the past 17 years of applying the ecosynomics of abundance-based agreements in 40+ countries, in all sectors, and surveying the experience people have in their agreements across 125 countries, we have hundreds, and now maybe thousands, of examples of groups living the experience of high equality every day, often for decades. We have not found a single one of these groups where they are only strong as seen through one of the four lenses. What you see through all four lenses is high. Through the economic lens, they are clear that they access vast resources in their own potential, in continuous developing capacities and relationships, and in evolving with the feedback they receive from the outcomes they achieve. They are very high performing groups. Through the political lens, decisions are made and supported based on the primary relationship most relevant to the decision, whether it is for the self, other, group, nature’s creative process, or spirit’s source of creativity. The power to decide interweaves these five primary relationships. Through the cultural lens, values include the potential in the individuals and the group, in service to its deeper shared purpose, as well as the developing of capacities and relationships, and the outcomes that provide learning and fruit for the next period. Through the social lens, the principles guiding their interactions focus on the deeper shared purpose as the organizing principle, engaging each necessary participant’s unique contributions, as they develop, deliver, and evolve along the way. These groups we have found represent local government, run textile mills, generate local electricity, provide community health, teach kids, and plant vegetables. They are normal people, living deep equality, everywhere.

Maybe we could learn from groups already living deep equality in ecologies of sacred hospitality. They are living abundance-based approaches to the economic, political, cultural, and social questions. All at the same time.

Groups that try to work on just one of these 4 questions at a time never make it. It seems to not be just an economic question, or just a political question, or just a cultural question, or just a social question. Deep equality seems to require an abundance-based response to all four questions, at the same time. And, lots of people have figured this out. Let’s find more of these groups, and learn with them.

It’s Your Health, You Decide

Most of us give over the decisions about our health to someone else. Decisions about what we should eat, what exercise we should do, and how we should respond to getting sick. Essentially, what to put in our bodies, how to move our bodies, and how to fix our bodies when they are not working right. It is a lot to understand, and there are experts who have studied all of this, so we should just do what they say. Right?

Maybe. Partially. As famed physician and author Atul Gawande asks in his book Being Mortal, why are we asking technicians to decide moral questions for us? While they are very highly trained technicians, medical professionals can help us get to the state we want for our bodies, but that requires that somebody decide what that desired state is, and Dr. Gawande suggests that we are the ones to decide that for ourselves.

What are we supposed to decide for ourselves and where might we depend on experts? Easy. If we understand that we are assessing 4 different things. 3 of these are ours to decide, for ourselves. Experts can help guide us with 1 of them. We need to know (1) our actual state, how we are actually doing, (2) our desired state, what we want our health to look like, (3) the gap–the difference–between the actual and desired states, and (4) what to do to close the gap. We have to understand our actual health, in comparison with the health we actually want for ourselves, and what we can do to move towards the health we choose.

There are infinite suggestions about the life you should lead. Most of us don’t follow most of these suggestions. Someone out there tells us not to, but some people like to eat meat or carbs, walk on busy streets or late at night, eat from street vendors or in local dives, smoke, complain, jump out of airplanes and off of cliffs, swim with sharks, drink sweet soda drinks or alcohol, or sit on the couch all day. These are all things that some expert says is bad for us. And, lots of us like to do some of these things. That might be what leads to a life well lived. The problem then might not be what we choose to do or how we choose to live our lives, rather in what we do about what happens along the way.

To know what to do, to maintain our health or strengthen it, we need to know the standard of health we want, where we are right now, and what we can do to close the gap between the two. Information from technology and experts can support us in understanding what our desired state of health looks like and how to measure it (e.g., pulse rate, muscle strength, clean thoughts, no headaches), how to assess our current level of health with similar measures, and what we can do to alter our current state. If you want to be able to have stronger legs, these different forms of exercise might work for you, depending on what you like to do. Swimming, walking, lifting weights, squats. Here are the measures, the possible actions, and now you can assess and decide. It’s your choice–what you want, where you are, and what you can do to get where you want. If this is what you want to do (see the long list above), these are the consequences that you live with, and what you can do to ameliorate the impacts.

To be able to make this shift in mindset, from leaving it to others to decide to deciding for yourself, it is helpful to clarify how you think about your health. To you, what is your “original state” and what is “normal”? Let’s look at this question for your physical health and then your mental and social health.

YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH

There exist 2 very different perspectives on your physical health. Where you start from will greatly determine what you do and what you achieve. One perspective is that you start with your “original state.” The other perspective is that you start from a “normal state.”

Your original state. The body you were given is a miracle. While it has been studied forever, we still have very little understanding of how it does what it does. It is born, with you in it. It grows. For half of us, it makes babies and milk for babies. For the other half, it makes seeds for babies. It grows older. It grows stronger. It fights diseases and fixes wounds. It dies. That’s a lot. In your original state, you have a very high functioning physical state, doing a huge amount in every single instant, over a whole lifetime, and this is normal. Lower than this is pathological. For some reason, in this whole universe of infinite energy, we exist as Homo lumens, as natural beings. Our body is created, grows, strengthens, and procreates, without our conscious awareness or design. And, our awareness and design influence what we do with this energy-flowing structure-energy-field we are given. It is a very complex system that is made to work at a high level of performance (efficiency and effectiveness, leveraging small inputs into sustainable, resilient outputs for all systems, in all parts of the body, at all times). This is our given state, a state that our lack of understanding and awareness “normally” degrades. This is our “original state.”

Your normal state. From a “normal state” view of the world, we look at what is normal for people, what the standard distribution of people do. From this perspective, low levels of health are fine. Higher is nicer. We expect people to be in poor health, because that is what we find, normally. We make conscious choices and accept unconscious conditions that work against our body instead of with it. Just think of the obesity epidemic, chronic disease years-of-life lost, and the high levels of malnutrition we accept around the globe. With a world of water and plants, we allow vast amounts of people to die from dehydration and malnutrition. With easily-scalable high technology, we allow many people to die early from easily avoidable conditions (dirty air, dirty water, contaminated food, communicable disease). After all, this low state of health is what we see in lots of people, so it is “normal.” Better than normal is nice. This is our “normal state.”

YOUR MENTAL, SOCIAL HEALTH

We see the same for your mental and social health. The World Health Organization suggests that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. As with our physical health, the same two perspectives apply to our mental and social health—and “original state“ and a “normal state“ view. Which do you choose? Your original, given state or what is normal amongst others? Your “original,” given state of intense creativity, passion, and will to engage in creating a future to which you give your love, in your own, unique ways, every day? Or your “normal state” of being disengaged and apathetic about what actually happens?

You decide and you assess. Here are a few quick, easy tools for measuring your own state of health, using instruments my colleagues and I have developed and tested over the past two decades in over 125 countries. All of these well-tested, validated measures are available for free online—I provide the link to them. You can use them as you wish for yourself. If you would like help in understanding or applying these tools to your own health, feel free to contact me.

The “You Choose” Plan.

  1. You choose your standard of physical, mental, and social health
  2. You asses your actual levels
  3. You determine the gap
  4. You choose the actions to take

Experts and expert tools can help you assess these, and they can help you setup a continuous monitoring scorecard system, to bring you greater resilience for when things happen. It is a choice. Your choice.

It’s Perfect. Whose Perfection?

Your perfection. It turns out that when each of us says something is perfect, we might mean completely different things.

Perfect. From the Latin perfectus “completed, excellent, accomplished, exquisite,” from per “completely” + combining form of facere “to make, to do.” To make complete. Complete what? That depends on how you define the “what” that you are completing.

From an ecosynomic perspective, we observe three levels of perceived reality (nouns, verbs, possibility). Depending on the levels of perceived reality you are working with, you will define perfection differently.

  • Noun-only Reality. When you consider only the observable facts right in front of you right now–the nouns you have–perfection means that what is already known and already here is complete. You know what completeness looks like, because it is given to you in the book. Whatever book contains the received wisdom you prefer. You can assess, from that received wisdom, the current state of something, whether it is complete or not, whether it is perfect or not. If it is, you are right.
  • Verb-and-noun Reality. When you consider what is observable right now, as well as the ebb and flow of inputs and outputs over time, perfection is measured against the standard of the living nature of the thing, of the stability of the net dynamics of its state over time. You set this standard based on what you have learned from received wisdom, as well as from what is happening in the context you are in right now. If it is on the right course, you are correct.
  • Possibility-and-verb-and-noun Reality. When you consider what is observable right now, the ebb and flow, and the potential you can access, your standard for perfection is in your capacity to close the gap between your actual state and the state that you are here to see realized, the desired level that aligns your efforts with your deeper purpose. You set this standard based on received wisdom and what you are learning and in the potential you can see, accessing all of the creativity you can perceive. If it is aligning with purpose, you are in service.

Perfection. Making complete. It all depends on the standard you are perfecting towards. It all depends on how you define your reality. On the dimensions of reality you choose to include. Perfect.

What Is Tangible?

We usually say that some things are tangible, and others are intangible. This means that some are touchable, and others are not touchable. Literally, we can perceive them through our senses, or we cannot. Maybe that is not so useful.

Maybe it is more useful to think of two kinds of tangible—outerTangible (oT) and innerTangible (iT). Things that we sense through our outward-oriented senses are outerTangible. Things that we sense through our inward-oriented senses are innerTangible. My biological senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing gather information about what is happening in the biophysical realms of reality. My body takes that information and transforms it into a form my body can use to do something. That is the outerTangible world.

My body also processes a lot of information that my body is perceiving about my inner state. How am I feeling about my physical state? What do I think and feel about the thoughts, feelings, and intentions I am experiencing? How do I want to respond to the affect I am experiencing from another person, independent or consonant with their words and actions? Do I love this possibility, hate it, or am I indifferent to it? Do I find this scenery to be beautiful? All of these perception signals are also real and quite touchable. I can literally feel them. They are innerTangibles. My body takes that information and transforms it into a form my body can use to do something.

Both the outerTangible and the innerTangible affect me. They are real stimuli to which I respond. Thinking of them as tangible or intangible leads me to think that one is more real than the other, which does not help much. Some of the things that most impact my life and the decisions I make are things like love, hope, and trust. InnerTangibles. Just as real as the outerTangibles. Both critical to perceiving what is happening in my life.

Are We A System Or A Network? A Hat Tip to Russell Ackoff, Again

Almost everything these days is a network (5B Google hits). Or a system (10B Google hits). Are systems and networks the same thing? Are they very different?

A very brief side trip into definitions and etymology might answer this for us, definitively. Network is defined by OED as “a group or system of interconnected people or things.” Network comes from the Proto-Germanic *natjo, perhaps originally “something knotted,” from PIE root *ned– “to bind, tie” and *werka– “work,” from PIE *werg– “to do.” So, from the Proto-Germanic for bound-together work or interconnected people or things. System is defined by OED as “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole.”  System comes from the Greek systema “organized whole, a whole compounded of parts,” from syn– “together,” from PIE root *sta– “to stand, make or be firm.” So, from the Greek for interconnected parts. OED seems to partially define a network as a system and a network as a system. So, the definitions and etymology do not seem to clarify much.

Then, there is Russell Ackoff. For me it is always worth it to go back to Russell Ackoff, especially for clarity around seemingly complex themes. In his 2010 book Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management, Ackoff distinguishes networks from systems, clarifying their distinct power and purpose.

A system is a whole that is defined by its function in a larger system of which it is a part. (An automobile, for example, is defined for its role in the transportation system: a university by its role in the educational system.) It has at least two essential parts–parts without which it could not perform its defining function. For example, an automobile cannot function without a motor, fuel, pump, or battery. A person cannot function without a brain, lungs, and a heart. The essential parts have five essential characteristics: (1) Each can affect the behavior or properties of the whole; (2) The way an essential part affects the whole depends on what at least one other part is doing. The effects of the parts are interdependent; (3) Every two essential parts are connected, directly or indirectly; (4) Subsets of essential parts (subsystems) also can affect the properties or behavior of the whole, and the way they affect the whole depends on at least one other subsystem; (5) There is a direct or indirect connection between every pair of subsystems. It follows that a system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts. Its properties and behavior derive from the interactions of its parts, not their actions considered separately.

A network is a whole whose function is to enable communication between its parts. In a well-designed network, there is a connection between every possible pair of parts. But in a network, unlike a system, there are no essential parts. If any part is removed, there are alternative ways to connect the parts affected.

The parts of a system many form a network, but not every network is a system. The so-called “telephone system” is not a system but a network. It has no essential parts. However, a telephone company is a system. If a collection of parts is neither a system nor a network, it is an aggregation, like a crowd or inventory of parts. For example, consider the wired telephone network. If the connection between Philadelphia and New York is broken, one can still reach New York from Philadelphia by going through any number of cities: for example, Trenton, New Brunswick, and Newark. But, if an essential part of a system–for example, the motor from an automobile–is broken the automobile cannot perform its function.

Ackoff, R. L. (2010). Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management. Devon, UK, Triarchy Press, pp. 119-120.

Thank you, once again, Russell Ackoff for this clarity. A system is a set of interrelated parts, where the contribution of each is essential to the purpose and behavior of the whole. A network is a set of interrelated parts, providing robust communication among its parts. An aggregation is a pile of parts. Clear. So, are you a system, a network, or an aggregation?

We’ve Been to the Moon, Now It’s Time for an Earthshot

We have gone to the moon: now we need to take care of our earth.  This is where we live, and this is what we are made of, earth and its life forces, our biology. An earthshot is to say YES! to a future we love, here on this earth, amongst all of us that inhabit it.

The prophet of abundance-based technology and bold steps towards a far-better world, Peter Diamandis, invites us to take on a “moonshot mindset,” invoking the power of John F. Kennedy’s 1962 moon speech. Again, we need to do it, we have not done it yet, and we can. This “means applying 10X thinking (or 1,000%) to all of your efforts and challenges.” As Kennedy saw, you have the resources, you have the knowledge, you have the will, and you have the need, the love for that future. Now you need to put it all together, probably in new ways.

My colleagues and I have found that many “positive deviants” have already figured out part of the “how,” how to put it all together, and these positive deviants are everywhere, across the planet, even in your own backyard. We are now putting these pieces together into an abundance-based approach, based on the emerging science of abundanceecosynomics.

The herenow we face requires an earthshot—we need to do it, we have not done it yet, and we can, together, each bringing our best contributions.

All Rules Come with Standards and Principles You Didn’t Set—With Principles-based Choosing, You Set All Three

As I described in an earlier post, one way to be more resilient is to shift from thinking about rules to standards and principles.  John Rawls, a moral and political philosopher, highlighted in his book, A Theory of Justice, the differences amongst the terms rules, standards, and principles.

Rules are straight lines, asking yes/no questions, looking for triggering conditions that something is changing, seeking predictability and certainty.  Ex ante, the thinking is that this rule should and will provide this stability.  Put it in place, and let it work.

Standards are balancing feedback systems, with a gap between a stated goal and the actual state driving action that changes the actual state, like a thermostat.  This system looks for balancing factors in a set of relevant considerations and options, providing a range of choices.  Ex post, this thinking asks whether this standard maintained the behavior within a desired range.

Principles are systems to be considered, providing guardrails for the feedback loops (standards) to include, and how the choices made in actions might be interpreted.  In reflection, this thinking asks whether the system of standards and rules under consideration increases resilience of the desired impact.

Rules tell you what actions to take to close the gap. For example, for your physical health, eat this many calories, with this mix of proteins, grains, vegetables, and fruit. Or do this much exercise a day. For your mental health, read this, think about this, stop thinking about this, or talk to this person. For your emotional health, have these friends, and engage in this way. Each of these guides for how to act are rules. Rules often come with implicit standards of what healthy looks like, based on a principle of standards, rules, and who should be setting them.

Simply put, every rule comes with standards and principles, whether you agreed to them or not. With a principles-based start to your choices, you set all three. You decide who decides, towards what purpose, with what standard, what feedback process, what rules, and what actions. You choose.