The turning of another page on the Gregorian calendar to mark the earth’s latest trip around the sun provides a natural opportunity to reflect and hit the reset button. Of course, we can do this at any time – and we should do it throughout the year – but hey, the clock just struck 2023 and no time like the present.
The first thing is to recognize the potential for tension: we assess where we are; we identify some things we’d like to change; therefore there’s a gap that needs to be addressed. The “how and when” of addressing that gap can lead to resistance and tension; tension sometimes gets addressed with “fight or flight,” either of which could mean failed resolutions and goals.
There is a better way and it starts with going deeper. This is where it’s helpful to identify what’s internal and what’s external. What comes from you and what comes from what’s around you. What do you REALLY want? What do YOU really want?
“I have no idea how to find the perfect balance between internal and external benchmarks. But I know there’s a strong social pull toward external measures – chasing a path someone else set, whether you enjoy it or not. Social media makes it ten times more powerful. But I also know there’s a strong natural desire for internal measures – being independent, following your quirky habits, and doing what you want, when you want, with whom you want. That’s what people actually want.”(1)
Morgan Housel’s (whose book The Psychology of Money is a must read) depiction above of what comes from within and what comes from without rhymes nicely with Warren Buffett’s oft-quoted reference to Inner Scorecard and Outer Scorecard: “Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?”(2)
A great business example of Buffett following his Inner Scorecard is his approach to running Berkshire Hathaway: “We are also very reluctant to sell sub-par businesses as long as they generate at least some cash and as long as we feel good about their managers and labor relations…gin rummy managerial behavior (discard your least promising business at each turn) is not our style. We would rather have our results penalized a bit than engage in that kind of behavior.”(3)
So how about setting just a few priorities and values (internally derived) and living our life accordingly? Yes, the pull of external measures is strong and difficult to avoid. We encounter it every day. It’s like a magnet and most of the time most of us don’t realize what’s happening. So it takes some real awareness and curiosity and desire for truth to first see what’s going on around us. And then, if we want to prioritize activities and achievements that the culture (external) prizes - great. But let’s do so because they’re right for us – not because we’re being led around in a trance by someone else’s agenda.
Try it – identify just three or four priorities or values that YOU think should define YOUR life. Review them every morning. Your daily “how and when” decisions to address the gap of where you are versus where you want to be might start to feel a little different.