Your Internal and External Success Score Cards

Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash

Not many people have asked themselves the ultimate life determinant question, “On my death bed, what will I be grateful for having done, and regret not having done?”

This question is meant to help you measure your life according to some parameters, and define goals — both external and internal. Having attained these goals, one can satisfactorily assent that they have been indeed successful. Some people may not readily distinguish between the two types of score cards.

External Indicators of Success

External life goals can be set on the precedent of your friends, family, the people that know you, your society or even the world. They could be positive comments that people say about you. These are statements like ‘S/he contributed greatly to our community’ or ‘S/he was an honest person and had integrity…’ statements along these lines. For some people, whose external validators of a successful life are material things, statements like ‘he drove really expensive and cool cars’ or ‘she was known to dress elegantly’ and many such social statuses and approvals may suffice.

Naturally, humans are wired to seek external approval and thus most people will find it reasonable to strive to define success based on societal labels of success, which are usually material possessions or other intangible metrics like power, influence, and fame. The means through which people achieve their success may be positive or negative, right or wrong, but some people won’t care about the means but only the end result.

Internal Indicators of success

Some people look at success using an internal metric or score card. Doing this requires much introspection about the things that are personally important and hold uncompromisable value to you. Then you can define success your own way without minding much about the approval of society and its standards. Research shows that the internal metric of defining and striving for success is the most fulfilling over the long term. Such goals are usually intangible, examples of which may be attaining financial independence, improving relationships with your spouse, friends, children, parents, attaining life-saving skills, philanthropy, authoring a book (not for obvious reasons of becoming rich and famous, but for deeper reasons like improving people’s standards of living and/or contributing to the general knowledge levels of society). One may even be driven to find a cure for cancer.

Such internal score cards are usually not only personally meaningful but are the most determinants of success, especially when one is on their deathbed.

How To Choose

According to the book ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?’, the best way to achieve fulfilment in one’s life is to judge success using the internal score card as the primary metric. When you are 80 years old, and are hanging onto life by a thread, the most satisfying memory might more likely be the weekend you spent on vocation with your wife and children than the night you spent in office trying completing a monthly presentation, or the donation you made towards an orphanage rather than the fleet of expensive cars parked in your garage.

Therefore, when planning life goals, it’s key to optimise for things, tangible or not, that are going to give us life-long fulfilment and happiness. Measuring our levels of success by common society standards, or comparing oneself with others has mostly caused people to lead unhappy, dishonest and financially decrepit lives. And it’s not worth it.

Something worthy is to spare 15 minutes today and think about what you deeply care about, things you will reflect upon while on your death bed and smile with contentment. These are the things you should work on — beginning now.

Sharing insights on personal growth, intentional living, and kaizen. I’m contributing to make the world better; I think writing is a fun way to do it. 😊