Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to conduct a personal assessment.

Post 551 - Next month is my birthday month so I'm drawn to think more actively about just where I am at the moment and where I want to go in the next decade or so. Here, I learn from my colleague, Walt Sutton, who shared his wisdom with my Vistage groups on this topic some years ago. Walt noted that many of us are shoe-horned into our lives, and never experience time as something that can be expanded so that it belongs to us. We have formidable to-do lists that would fell an ox. But there’s no white space on the page, no fresh air in the room, no far horizon in view, no new perspective. And when we're in this mode, we’re not only invisible to ourselves, we’re invisible to the world which would love to engage us in a conversation that could take us farther than we'd ever have imagined ourselves going. When did you last take time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with yourself? Where are you going in 2011? And why? With whom? And how?

Consider your direction, progress, aspirations, dreams, goals, and everything you can think of about your life. One of the biggest reasons we become achievers is to control our own destiny. However, we tend to restrict our vision to our business lives rather than using it to shape our lives as a whole. Stephen Covey uses the metaphor of climbing the ladder of success - only to discover when you get to the top that the ladder is against the wrong wall. A yearly personal assessment is a way to look at all the buildings, all the ladders, and as much of the surrounding countryside as you can see. The desired outcome is to study and get to know yourself a little bit better and see what that suggests you do in the future.

Answering the following questions is one of the most powerful things you can do to impact the quality of your life. Something that successful and happy people all seem to have in common is that they use personal introspection as a basis for making life decisions and for routinely adjusting their life course. The key here is to think energetically, optimistically, critically, and seriously about what you want from life. Then take your thoughts - however you organize them - and compile a series of commitments to make your dreams come true.

Here are some interesting ways to go about this:

- Write a letter back to yourself assuming you're 99 years old and recount what was really important in your life.

- Imagine a perfect day working, playing and continuing to develop yourself... what would these days look like, and what would you look like doing these things.

- Imagine yourself as your own best friend... what would you advise yourself about your life's direction now and how to make your future choices even more meaningful.

Consider this list:

- What do I want to do in the time I have left?

- What do I want to do in the next five years?

- I have six months to live. What do I want to do in those six months?

Take some time alone, schedule the meeting with yourself, ask the questions, and listen only to yourself. As you answer, look for words that wake you up, that appeal to both your head and your heart. While most of us can see at least a portion of the potential in our lives, the story in our mind often gets in the way. The solution is most often right in front of us and it usually involves changing the story.

Have your life partner do their own retreat and compare notes. Categories to think about are: personal, professional, financial, physical, spiritual (including the contributions you hope to make to this planet), and wild cards (the "crazy" things you want to do before you die). The names of the categories should reflect what you care about in life.

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