Aaron Pidel, SJ, thinks that this observation in a Times article on self-monitoring is right on the mark. When we try to change
we simply thrash about: we improvise, guess, forget our results or change the conditions without even noticing the results. Errors are possible in self-tracking and self-experiment, of course”¦ But once you start gathering data, recording the dates, toggling the conditions back and forth while keeping careful records of the outcome, you gain a tremendous advantage over the normal human practice of making no valid effort whatsoever.
The daily examen of Ignatius Loyola is a way of gathering the data necessary for change, says Pidel.
it’s the externalization of the data that most interests me, since it’s probably the most neglected component of St. Ignatius’ own recommendations for the particular examen. In the Spiritual Exercises, for instance, Ignatius recommends that, in order to “rid oneself sooner of a particular fault or defect,” one should attend to it three times per day with: (1) a firm resolution upon a rising, (2) an examen at midday, and (3) a second examen before bed. Moreover, by marking the number of lapses between each examen, one can keep a crude log of one’s sins.