Reality Check: Scorekeeping and Self-Evaluation

Scorekeeping. We’re all familiar with it. Whether your experience is on the soccer field or at the card table, you know that keeping score can add value to the game. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t keep doing it, right?

Fundamentally, keeping score involves taking data and then using that data to make comparisons or draw conclusions. The sports world—indeed, competitions of all types thrive on it.

Scorekeeping is also useful for self-development. For example, say you are trying to improve your stamina. First, choose a metric (the quantity to measure) such as, “How far have I walked?”

Then, keep a regular record of that measurement. Some manufacturers, such as Fitbit, recognize that folks want easy ways to keep track of their “scores” (measurements) and have created gadgets in response to that market demand.

Finally, use that data! You might use it to make comparisons (Did I walk further last week or this week?) and to draw conclusions (I’m getting better and better!)

Data is so helpful when we self-evaluate our actions, because using data removes at least some of the perceptional errors that are so easy to make.

For example, my perception is that last week I adhered to my regular exercise routine. But when I look at the actual data—ouch! Turns out it wasn’t quite as regular as I had perceived. (Facts can be annoying.) However, facts reflect the score—the reality of the situation. Whether we choose to respond to them is another matter.

Data can become even more useful if you create charts and draw graphs. It’s fun! If the idea of getting out your graph paper and coloured pencils doesn’t sound like fun to you, there’s software that can help.

No matter what measurement you are tracking, watching those lines or bars go in the direction you want can be truly motivational. And if the lines are trending in the wrong direction, at least you can see what’s happening and start taking action to correct it.

While I’ve used exercise as the example, keeping score has many useful applications. Tracking weight data is helpful if diet is a concern for you. Some medical conditions require regular testing for specific levels: graphing those levels can give you a much clearer picture of what’s happening in your body than hearing, “Yes, the levels are normal” or “No, the levels are not normal.”

Finances are another area where taking and graphing data can be clarifying. Among the measurement possibilities are what is coming in, what’s been spent, what is owed, etc. Choose the metric that is important to you.

There are plenty of benefits to keeping score in many aspects of our lives. Taking data can help us set realistic goals, determine whether we are on track, and help us improve. As a self-evaluation tool, keeping score is really helpful.

There is, however, at least one area in life where keeping score can make lives worse rather than better. Next week, I’ll give you my perception of where scorekeeping can go bad. Where do you think that might be?

Do you “keep score” in your life? In what way?

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