I've come across with the line below:

When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior.

As you know "get" is a mulitiple meaning word [1]:

  • BUY


I don't understand which one is the proper meaning. So could you please tell me what the meaning of "get the behavior" is?

The full text is:

The dark side of tracking a particular behavior is that we become driven by the number rather than the purpose behind it. If your success is measured by quarterly earnings, you will optimize sales, revenue, and accounting for quarterly earnings. If your success is measured by a lower number on the scale, you will optimize for a lower number on the scale, even if that means embracing crash diets, juice cleanses, and fat-loss pills. The human mind wants to “win” whatever game is being played. This pitfall is evident in many areas of life. We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done. We care more about getting ten thousand steps than we do about being healthy. We teach for standardized tests instead of emphasizing learning, curiosity, and critical thinking. In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior. This is sometimes referred to as Goodhart’s Law. Named after the economist Charles Goodhart, the principle states, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

Atonic Habits by James clear

[1] https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/get

2 Answers 2


The meaning of "get" here is closest to "receive" from the list of definitions you have given.

The sentence you give is really talking about cause and effect; that is you do one thing, and something else happens. "Choosing a measurement" is the cause, and the effect is the behaviour you receive or get back.

If he is speaking about our own behaviour, then it isn't really the best choice of words overall. I wouldn't say that we "receive" our own behaviour; it is something we choose or display. I think the problem here is that the author is flitting between the point of view of the reader and his own point of view as an impartial observer.

Just to clarify further the meaning of "behaviour" - this word is not exclusively used to describe human behaviour, but also the way things behave, such as the way chemicals react in a science experiment.

  • But, as you see, in this case "behaviour" has the conventional meaning of the word: He refers to behaviours like: "optimize sales, revenue, and accounting for quarterly earnings", "working long hours", " getting ten thousand steps", "teach for standardized" and so on.
    – Peace
    Dec 13, 2018 at 10:55
  • 1
    @Peace You are probably correct, although if he was talking about our own behaviour he really ought to have said "When we choose the wrong measurement, we display or the wrong behavior". The use of "get", which is what your question is about, normally implies something received back. It probably isn't written very well, in which case I'd like to leave my supplementary comment in there for the benefit of future readers with similar but not identical texts.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 13, 2018 at 11:35
  • 1
    The kinds of metrics mentioned are often imposed externally. Management imposes quarterly sales targets, and they get some behavior in response from the sales staff and accounting staff -- which might involve treating customers badly and fudging the numbers if we're not also measuring those things. When we choose bad metrics for ourselves, we get bad behavior from ourselves. When we choose bad metrics for others, we get bad behavior from those others. Dec 13, 2018 at 22:31
  • @GaryBotnovcan: The phrase "garbage in, garbage out" comes to mind, though not as elegantly. I like yours better.
    – K.A.Monica
    Jan 1, 2019 at 0:11

The meaning there is "to obtain, as a result".

When we raise the temperature to 212F (100C) we get boiling water.

There, "boiling" could be considered a "behavior", broadly construed.

How does water behave when you raise its temperature to 100C?

What does water do when you raise its temperature to 100C?

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