UPDATE: 6/27/14: Because this article is quite popular (3,500 Facebook Likes) I thought I'd add a little something to it: A little video I created to both drive the point home and hopefully make you laugh. HERE is the link,.
At the risk of oversimplifying, it strikes me that we can assess how well we’re living our lives—and, in turn, develop a plan for its improvement—by scoring ourselves on just four factors: Health, Work, Relationships, and Creative Outlets.
Of course, each of us will weight those four factors differently, so let’s start by giving you 100 points. How would you allocate them among the four factors?
Here's a sample response:
- I’d give Health 35. Without it, nothing is possible.
- I’d also give Work 35. For me, productivity, being helpful, is huge.
- Relationships? 10. I know that violates the societal norm, but for me, my relationships have caused me much pain as well as pleasure and I’m not convinced that prioritizing them additionally is the best use of my time.
- That leaves 20 for Creative Outlets, which feels about right.
Okay, your turn: How would you allocate 100 points?
- Health ___
- Work ___
- Relationships ___
- Creative outlet ___
Now, let’s turn to scoring those four factors:
Ideally, you have no health worries now and won't for the foreseeable future. You have no diseases, your weight is good, you eat and exercise reasonably, and have neither a mental health nor a substance abuse problem. Out of the 35 points I've allocated to health, I’d score myself 28. I could lose 20 pounds and at nearly 64, I’m starting to see signs of aging creep in. I really want to lose those 20 pounds. Of course, I've been saying that forever.
How about you? Out of whatever number of points you’ve allocated to health, how many points does your health deserve? What keeps it from scoring the maximum? Does that suggest anything you want to do differently regarding your health?
At its best, your work incorporates your capabilities; your skills; your interests; and your values. Along with that:
- You feel you’re contributing significantly to society, or a subset thereof.
- You enjoy your work environment—the co-workers, the setting, the commute, etc.
- You’re not worried about being laid off.
- You make a reasonable living.
Out of the 35 points I allocated to work, I’d score myself 30. Why not 35? There are causes—for example, championing high-IQ kids—that I wish I could more fully incorporate into my work life, but I feel it wouldn’t yield sufficient benefit. It’s out-of step with this era’s zeitgeist and I view that as too immutable, at least for the foreseeable future.
Okay, your turn: Out of whatever number of points you’ve allocated to work, how many does your current work life rate? What keeps it from scoring the maximum? Does that suggest anything you want to do differently regarding your work life?
This covers romantic relationships, familial ones, and platonic friends.
Out of the 10 points I allocated to relationships, I score myself a 6. I love my wife and have been with her for 41 years, but I wish she were kinder to me. My relationship with my daughter is long estranged, permanently so in my judgment. My wonderful dad died a few years ago, but I continue to have a good relationship with my mom. Alas, she’s near the end of her life. I have two very close friends and feel fortunate to have them. And I don't know if this counts, but I have a fabulous relationship with my doggie, Einstein. Anything I want to try to improve? I’ll continue to try to deepen the relationship with my wife.
Okay, your turn: Out of whatever number of points you’ve allocated to relationships, how many points do your relationships score? What keeps it from the maximum? Does that suggest anything you want to do differently?
Examples: Working, playing or coaching sports; acting, writing, painting; gardening, building, or tinkering. Out of the 20 points I allocated to creative outlets, I’d actually score myself a 20. I write a lot, direct plays, garden, and play the piano. Perfect.
Okay, your turn: Out of whatever number of points you’ve allocated to creative outlets, how many points should you get? What keeps you from the maximum? Does that suggest anything you want to do differently?
Dear reader, I've tried to keep things simple here, even at the risk of being simplistic. Many of our lives are pretty overwhelming as it is, and it seems it may be wiser to err on the side of simplicity. But what do you think: Have I omitted some important factor?
Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and he enjoys a 96 percent client-satisfaction rate. In addition to his articles here on PsychologyToday.com, many more of Marty Nemko's writings are archived on www.martynemko.com. Of Nemko's seven books, the most relevant to readers of this blog is How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School. His bio is on Wikipedia.