Keep a personal scorecard to see what works in your life. This provides ground truth to let you know if your life philosophy is meeting your needs.

I’m not known for being observant. Perhaps it’s part of my introvert nature. Or a low intellect. Asking who my best friend is will elicit a long examination of acquaintances to see which ones qualify as friends, but only after I’ve evaluated multiple friendship criteria.  Then I will rack and stack each potential acquaintance-cum-friend to figure who ranks as best. Then I will vanish down some rabbit hole considering the possibility that all these rankings are ephemeral, changing from moment to moment and possibly with setting, as well.  What was the question?

How do I feel, you ask?  Feel what?  With my fingers?  What is the context of the question?

Is that new medicine the doctor prescribed helping?  I don’t know.  I’m aware of placebo effects and other psychological issues that could interfere with objective observation so I have to work diligently to screen such effects out of my conclusion. That’s why I became a physicist, so I wouldn’t have to handle such subjective issues.  Let me commission a study and get back to you.

How is the pain, you ask, on a scale of one to ten?  An hour later, I’m deep in the middle of outlining a subjective sensation scale but hung up on whether it should be a linear or log measure.

My awareness of day-to-day events is similarly cloudy.  I used to speak openly about being an artist, working in oil, until someone asked about my latest painting.  I was embarrassed to admit that it had been years since I had touched a paint brush.  I had similar uh-oh moments about my writing, my music and a number of hobbies.  I started an activity log to help me keep track of what I was actually doing.  My log not only helps to avoid future episodes of foot-in-mouth disease but also helps me see what I’ve been omitting in my life.

More recently, I’ve been using emotional scorecards, as well.  Scorecards can be about results, like my activity logs, but they can also be used to monitor your emotional state. For example, are you glad you stayed up late watching TV last night?  Is that new hobby worth the effort you are putting into it?  What about your new circle of friends?  Was that party really worth the aftermath?

Most of us spend our lives on autopilot, watching the ground come up at us in a detached, disinterested way.  We don’t take the time to ask fundamental, introspective questions.  At best, we may latch onto someone else’s philosophy, lurching our lives vaguely in the direction they dictate and then sitting back to hope for the best.

Instead of accepting others’ guidance on faith, treat different life philosophies as suggestions to be confirmed by experiment.  Try them out for a while and then step back to see if you are better off than before.

Writing in a slightly different context, David Friedlander over at, had this to say about what he called data driven living.

[W]hat if we allowed data to inform, not just how we design our homes, but how we design our lives? How would we live if we let data be our guiding force, rather the forces of: A. This is the way I’ve always done it, B. This is the way my parents/family have always done it, C. This is the way everyone else is doing it, or D. Some other non-data-related rationale? … Getting to the essence of something, whether it’s a letter or a life, is often a process of attrition, removing all that is not totally necessary. If you are wondering which things are removable, it’s important to check in with yourself…

Treat life as an experiment. Try it out for a while, gather data and decide what is working. Then try something else. This is the core of an activist philosophy of life.

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