Designing Your Own Scorecard for Life

Society has established an invisible but nonetheless very present “scorecard,” one in which money, status, power, and beauty are the markers of life success. It aids us in building, directing and validating our sense of worth, which in turn strongly influences the choices we make about what to invest our energy in. It’s fairly clear, I think, that no matter how independent-minded we think we are, this scorecard affects almost all of us profoundly.

As we follow our ambition, we chase goals we might never have chosen but for the existence and influence of society’s scorecard. According to Bonnie Ware1, an Australian writer and musician who spent years working in palliative care, treating patients who had gone home to die, so she got to know them intimately in their final weeks, by far the most commonly expressed regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

With startling ease, we can find ourselves chained to achievement goals that have been imposed on us. In a sense, the indoctrination we are all subject to make us victims of a form of “identity theft,” though a far more toxic brand of it than we usually mean by that term. Instead of a stranger hijacking our ATM card number to reroute money from our bank account, someone or something has taken control of the value proposition we use to judge the success of our lives. In doing so, they have stolen the great bulk of our energy and time, with no possibility of compensation for our loss.

Why are we so achievement oriented? What – as actors often ask – is our motivation? Is it to keep up with the Joneses? Is it to make others happy? Since we spend so much of our waking lives in the pursuit of various things, then surely it would help a little to understand the why behind it. The reasons may be broadly divided into categories of intrinsic and extrinsic. Simply put, intrinsic motivation means that one can enjoy and be interested in an activity for its own sake. Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is enacted for some motive outside the activity itself. Extrinsic motivation typically involves external regulation wherein an individual seeks to obtain an external reward and avoid an external punishment.

Our experience at the Human Performance Institute, as well as a growing body of research2, support the practice of constructing and living your own intrinsically driven scorecard. By doing so, you may be likelier to become a stronger, happier human being, but may be more likely to experience victories and external achievements, too. Why? Happier, more fulfilled people constantly outperform those who are unhappy and dissatisfied2. If you are happier than you were, you are more likely to be successful. The reverse statement – success breeds happiness – is simply not true.

Authored by Dr. Jim Loehr, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute

Loehr, J. (2012). The Only Way To Win. How Building Character Drives Higher Achievement and Greater Fulfillment in Business and Life. New York. Hyperion.