Martin Short’s Nine Categories

We listened to episode after episode of the delightful Smartless podcast on the recent drive to and from Virginia. One of my favorite episodes featured comedian Martin Short, who–in the midst of a lot of laughs–offered a thought-provoking insight.

He talked about how long ago he created a system called “The Nine Categories.” He uses the system to evaluate himself on an ongoing basis, kind of like a metric for checking in on his happiness.

The system has a two-pronged benefit: One, it helps him determine which categories he needs to work on. Two, because there’s a variety of categories, it helps him see that even if he’s struggling in some ways, he’s also happy in other ways–his personal satisfaction and success are diversified.

I really like this concept, and below I’ll share the nine categories and how I feel I’m doing with them at this point in my life (10-point scale). This article helped me remember the categories.

  1. Self (health): 8; I’m in good shape, though I need to reduce sweets and be more aware of my mental health
  2. Immediate family (partner, kids, pets): 8; oddly enough, I think this is right around the number where I want this to be. These relationships are very important to me, but they also don’t define me
  3. Original family (the people you grew up with): 9; while there’s always more to learn (and there will be, like with the recent death of my father), I think my immediate family and I are in a very good place
  4. Friends: 9; for the most part, I have the level of relationship I want with my active friends, and it’s good to know that I can still find new friends too
  5. Money: 10; I’ve been very fortunate in these regards
  6. Career: 10; same as above
  7. Creativity: 6; I view creativity as the actual act of creation, and almost nothing makes me feel more satisfied with my day than when I make forward progress on a creation. So even though creativity is a big part of my life, it’s also the area I judge myself the most harshly, particularly given how much it’s tied to my mission to bring joy to tabletops worldwide
  8. Discipline (goal setting and goal pursuit): ?; this is the one category I don’t quite understand, as it seems more like a subcategory for each other category
  9. Lifestyle (hobbies, fun, social life): 9; most of my social life involves playing games and the sport of the moment (disc golf right now); the pandemic has made it difficult to include food/restaurants

What do you think about this system? If you’d like to share, how are you doing in each of these categories?

3 thoughts on “Martin Short’s Nine Categories”

  1. Jamey,

    I’m fascinated to see this in writing. Years ago, when I attended an annual religious retreat, I began assessing my life alo9ng a very similar schema ~ How IS my life in the following areas: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Financial, Social, and Spiritual. Now, while I’m a fan of rating things on a 1-10 scale, like board games, I maintain a tighter 1-5 scale for the aforementioned areas I: Poor; time for a radical change; 2: Fair; Things aren’t great and can be much better; 3: Good; I’m content, but want to strive for more; 4: Excellent: It will rarely be better than this in life; and 5: Outstanding; the pinnacle of existence. In truth, I’ve never rated myself a ‘1’ or ‘2’ but I know they’re there and I’ve kept myself positive throughout my life knowing that with prayer and an optimistic outlook, anything is possible.


  2. Hi Jamey, thanks for that! I love the feeling of mastery it gives you when sit and think about things in this way. The idea that this particular area isn’t great, what can I do to improve it a bit?
    Have you seen the exercise where you draw a circle and draw lines bisecting it (is that the right word?) into 6 or 8 pieces? You chose and write down areas of life around the edge, one for each segment, for example Family, Work, Adventure, Health, Fun, Money … You then do a dot in each section, nearer the centre of the circle if you feel less fulfilled in this area and nearer the outside of you feel more fulfilled. You can then join the dots. It’s a brilliant visual representation of how balanced or imbalanced your life is. You’re aiming for a big happy hexagon!
    Take care, Lydia.


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