Month: March 2023

The Hidden Scorecard Inside All of Us

Musician angels at Millesgården, black and white, Lidingö, Sweden

I’m always wary of miracle shortcuts, quick fixes, and no sweat-solutions. The human brain is a sucker for them, and I’ve learned the hard way to avoid them. There are no such things as a free lunch. 

So, when Jim Loehr, the American performance psychologist and author, told Tim Ferriss (in this podcast) about a simple exercise that has profoundly changed the lives of thousands of people, I was, you know, wary. What, write down eight words, and then another eight words? That’s it? What could possibly be that mind-blowing?

Well, it turned out he was right. How world-shattering it depends very much on who you are and how you live your life.

A black and white photo of a sunlit wall and the shadow of a curtain

The Exercise

1) Think about who you are when you are the most proud of yourself, when you are at your very best. Especially in stressful circumstances, when you faced considerable challenges and somehow managed to overcome them and be the best you could be.

Write down the six to eight words that would best describe you at those moments. Take five minutes to reflect on them. 

Please stop here and do this, it takes only five minutes. 

*

Done? Read on.

What Loehr learned through this first step of the exercise: most people come up with almost the same things. And these are not the things people chase, like making a lot of money, closing a huge deal, or winning titles. Instead, they talk about being kind, compassionate, fully engaged with others, and so on. So more moral and ethical things rather than material or external success.

2) Now write down six to eight words that you would like inscribed on your tombstone. These words would actually reflect who you truly were, representing who you were when you were here. What would you like inscribed most importantly in the highest priority on your tombstone?

Again, take five minutes to reflect on them.

*

Ready? Read on.

What Loehr learned through this step of the exercise: the list was almost identical for all people participating in his workshops.

People would write things like “loving father”, “loyal friend”, or “an optimist”. No one would write, “I made CEO of a Fortune 500 company” or “I won this title and this title”.

What they were actually referencing was the connection to other people. This is how they wanted to be remembered. A person who was kind, loving, and loyal, an optimist who brought joy to others. That was what mattered. 

3) Compare who you are at your best and how you want to be remembered when you’re gone.

Very likely, you are right there. The two lists are similar, and they contain few, if any, of the external status markers.

Ivy in a terracotta pot in black and white

The Hidden Scorecard

We spend our lives chasing extrinsic measures of success, even though we have this hidden scorecard inside of us. We work hard and sacrifice a lot of things and think that we would feel better about ourselves as soon as we’ve closed that deal, bought that house, or made director or VP.

But when we evaluate our life, we use this hidden scorecard that contains none of those things.

This is why focusing on external success measures only (better job, a bigger house, etc.) leaves us unsatisfied and always wanting more. As soon as we reached our goal, as soon as we’ve got that promotion or bought the house, the euphory, and joy of that event vanishes after a short while. We’re feeling no different than before, and we start chasing the next goal, and the next one. It never ends.

Does it mean that we shouldn’t strive towards certain goals in life, like finding a better job or a nice house? Not at all.

We should work both scorecards; become aware of the hidden scorecard, and ensure that we’re living a life with intention and aligned to those moral and ethical values. This brings a more lasting feeling of peace and contentment.

Even if we encounter setbacks and failures in reaching our external goals, living a life aligned with our values will help us get through those moments. It puts things in perspective.

How much would this customer who ruined your day or the boss who didn’t think you deserved a promotion matter in 20, 30, or 40 years? When you look back on your life, what would matter? 

Becoming a CEO, winning the “Sales Rep of the Year” three years in a row, always having the latest car model or iPhone? Or the time spent with your family and your friends, the quality of those relationships, the joy of spending time with like-minded people sharing the same hobby, the rewarding hard work on your charity?

Focusing too much on the external scorecard and ignoring the internal one can have dire consequences. Getting alienated from family and friends, for instance, or depression.

Black and white abstract photo

Evaluating Your Life

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked in palliative care, wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Tending to dying people, she noted that the things people regretted when looking back at their lives were those found in that hidden scorecard. They didn’t regret that they didn’t work harder or made more money, or that they didn’t make CEOs.

These were the top five regrets people had.

  • Regret 1:  I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • Regret 2: I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • Regret 3: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • Regret 4: I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  • Regret 5: I wish I had let myself be happier.

This may sound morbid, but since we’ve already tackled the tombstone … if you knew that you only had a short time to live, what would you do? What would your priorities be? Would you work harder and longer to attain your goal (become CEO!) or spend time with your family?

Deadlines have that quality of putting everything in sharp focus and clarifying priorities. Death is the ultimate deadline.

Black and white abstract photo

Conclusion

Allowing time for reflection and putting things into perspective is self-care. Give this exercise a try. Congratulations if you live your values and gain nothing from this exercise but confirmation that you’re on the right track! But if you’re not, you have so much to gain!

Good luck!


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Flowers on World Poetry Day

Yellow crocuses in the rain

What better way to celebrate World Poetry Day today than by writing or reading a poem? The rain doesn’t seem to let up here, but this doesn’t mean you can’t use it in a poem as I did 😉. Happy World Poetry Day!

Spring rain

Caressing 

The whispering flowers


To read more poetry, click here.


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Why Do I Write?

Why do I write? How could I not? I write so I know that I exist. Brief as my moment in this world may be, it’s mine and mine alone; all mine to cherish and to honor. All mine to examine, make sense of, and preserve in the amber drop of memory.

Water seller in Marrakesh, Morocco
Water Seller, Jeema el Fna, Marrakech (Morocco)

I write to remember the honey light in Marrakech on a late afternoon in March, the blue of the sky vibrating with the muezzin calls and the racket of the sparrows playing in the palm trees in the Majorelle Garden. The gorgeous backdrop of the Atlas Mountains and the aroma of the spices in the souk. The rich hot black coffee in the tiny café on a side street off Jemâa el-Fna Square. The toothless smile of the old water seller under the colorful hat embellished with bright orange fringes. I remember he had a bushy mustache and an air of resigned patience on his heavily lined face as tourists snapped their photos. At least he’s getting paid, I thought.

I write to remember Delhi and the heavy scent of burning incense that hit me while the plane was landing, the beaming faces greeting me in the terminal, friends I hadn’t met yet. Delirious and unfamiliar Delhi, my senses assaulted by its cacophony of novel sounds, colors, and smells; the reddish-brown cow nibbling on a sapling at the side of the road, another moving placidly in the chaotic traffic. Horn, please! said the stickers on the bumper, explaining part of the racket. The delicious food at a vegetarian restaurant I found wandering by myself in the glowing twilight. 

Indian women wearing colorful saris
Image by Suffix on Pixabay

And everywhere you looked, people. People walking in line along the dusty roads, carrying bundles of vegetables or a collection of empty plastic water bottles; bales of cotton in all the rainbow’s colors; armloads of marigolds, their leaves strikingly green against the deep orange of the petals. People riding bicycles or rickshaws, carrying saddlebags, floor sacks, suitcases, packets tied with brown hemp strings, and age-worn backpacks. People drinking tea on the side of the road, gossiping and watching the traffic. Grinning people dressed in flowing white robes. Dark-eyed women with red dots on their foreheads and wide-eyed toddlers clutching tightly at their bright orange, green or yellow saris.

A gray fox statue s at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan.
A fox statue at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan

I write to remember Kyoto’s old streets, lined with tiny wooden houses clinging to the low hills, miniature flowerpots and plastic water bottles aligned like soldiers at the gates; the gray stone foxes at the Fushimi Inari shrine, messengers of Inari, the Shinto god of rice, red neckerchiefs fluttering in the cool wind around their necks; the fiercely red-orange of the torii gates matching the foxes’ kerchiefs.

Two kangaroos on a field, Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island, South Australia

I write to remember the dusty red tracks on Kangaroo Island, lined with giant eucalyptus trees; the incongruous rough calls of the fluffy koalas at dusk, mixed with the hubbub of the parakeets and galahs; the boxing kangaroos at sunset, their darkening silhouettes visible against the fiery sky; and the soft leathery sounds made by the flying foxes in the dark.


But faraway places aren’t the only stops of my memory train. There’s a democracy in my head; everybody can climb on board. Five-star resorts and exotic islands; dusty tracks and fly-ridden donkeys; water-sellers and university professors; squirrels and the Queen of England; the first time I rode a bicycle; the summer I injured my knee; the downpour in the mountains that almost washed our tent away; the vanilla and coffee ice-cream I so enjoyed on summer afternoons; the surgery I had in 2014. It’s all there in the attic in a jumble that only writing can bring order to.

A red squirrel in the snow holding a hazelnut in its mouth
Red squirrel

I write to freeze in time the moment I saw my name on the list of people admitted to the university, standing on my toes in a crowded room.

I write because otherwise, nobody else will know about Fluffy, the one-eyed red squirrel raiding the bird feeders in my backyard, her remaining huge alien eye glittering with mischief. 

I write because the world has a right to know that Terry, the male squirrel with the dark fluffy coat, does not like peanuts. He prefers sunflower seeds.

This is why I write. How could I not?


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Favorite Photos: February 2023

  1. Favorite Photos: January 2023
  2. Favorite Photos: February 2023
  3. Favorite Photos: March 2023
  4. Favorite Photos: April 2023
  5. Favorite Photos: May 2023
  6. Favorite Photos: June 2023
  7. Favorite Photos: July 2023
  8. Favorite Photos: August 2023
  9. Paris Is Always A Good Idea
  10. Favorite Photos: October 2023
  11. Favorite Photos: November 2023
  12. Favorite Photos: December 2023
  13. Favorite Photos: January 2024
  14. Favorite Photos: February 2024
  15. Favorite Photos: March 2024
  16. Favorite Photos: April 2024
  17. Favorite Photos: May 2024
Close up of a Kangaroo island kangaroo female
Kangaroo Island kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus), Seddon, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

February’s photos are all from Australia this month, too. Let me start with the cutest one, a young Kangaroo Island kangaroo female (Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus) that used to come with her mother by our villa almost every day. She’s so cute 😍 I probably took hundreds of photos of her!

Close up of a short-beaked echidna
Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), Seddon, Kangaroo island, South Australia

A short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), also known as the spiny anteater, very busy foraging for ants. Echidna uses its snout and powerful claws to dig up ants or termites and then scoops them out with its long sticky tongue. It moves incredibly fast, and most of my echidna photos are of its butt, ha, ha!

A hooded plover on the beach
A hooded plover (Thinornis cucullatus) foraging for food (Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park and Wilderness Protection Area, Kangaroo Island, South Australia).

Endemic to southern Australia, the hooded plover is deemed a vulnerable species due to predation by dogs, cats, silver gulls, and human disturbances. Introduced foxes are also dangerous in other parts of southern Australia, but luckily, there are no foxes on Kangaroo Island. The hooded plover population is estimated at 3.000 and declining.

Hooded plovers (Thinornis cucullatus) feed on insects and other invertebrates found in the wet sand. 

A close up of a koala in a tree
Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), Seddon, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

I found this cute little fellow during our usual late afternoon walks around our accommodations at Ecopia Retreat. The villa is tucked away in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary, so it was a pretty safe bet we’d encounter some animals and birds in their natural habitat. He posed nicely for a few photos but went to sleep afterward (something koalas do for about 20 hours a day).

Portrait of an Australia magpie in the grass
White-backed Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen), Seddon, Kangaroo Island, South Australia

Did you know that the white-backed Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen), also called piping shrike, appears on the South Australia state flag and badge? They’re everywhere and, in contrast to their European counterparts, have a melodious song.


I hope you enjoyed these photos, and no worries, there will be more fluffy koalas and cute kangaroos featured here soon!


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