Without proper self-evaluation, failure is inevitable. – Coach John Wooden
Whether formally or informally, we are always collecting data and performing assessments. As a parent, I constantly observe our children determine their growth, responses to different words and actions, how they interact with each other and children outside our home. I also observe how they adjust to new environments. All this “data collection” informs my parenting methods because one size does not fit all. In life, we collect data in various ways. Whether by reflection or writing in a journal, we are collecting data and making assessments. Progress, performance, and productivity are at the core of an assessment. Without time to take assessments, we miss critical growth opportunities. We achieve the best growth when we assess how we are doing in our lives. The busyness of life rarely gives us moments of reflection, but a few minutes, taken regularly to perform a life assessment has significant value.
In school, educators administer regular tests to collect data to gauge student learning and teaching effectiveness. Sometimes, a teacher will give a pop quiz to assess student progress and adjust teaching methods to improve the student learning experience before a final exam. Likewise prior to lifting off, aerospace engineers conduct rigorous tests on spaceships. A few days ago, SpaceX, fired up all six engines in a static fire test. The goal of this test is verification of the performance of engines at startup. Data collected from this test allows engineers to assess how well the engines worked and, from their findings, determine whether space travel is possible and safe. Similarly, we must willingly perform continuous assessments and use the findings to make improvements.
Every assessment has findings. The findings from an assessment are at times difficult to confront but necessary. I find assessments beneficial because decisions and actions cannot be measured effectively unless accessed. I was first exposed to performing end-of-year assessments by the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear. Three questions arise from his annual reviews:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What am I working toward?
The findings from the above questions are helpful to make adjustments and chart a course towards a better quality of life. Answering them honestly may provide previously unknown insights. Being comfortable with the discomfort an assessment brings is a necessary component to growth and change. The biggest discomfort we experience stems from the vulnerability that an assessment carries. We are forced to face hard truths. As author and podcaster Michael Hyatt says, “Your growth and success will be determined by your capacity for discomfort.” An honest but uncomfortable assessment contains three A’s.
The Three A’s of an Assessment
My year-end assessment performs a troika of things. First, It brings attention to the areas in life I have wins. It also sheds light on the areas I experienced losses and failures. This light is not meant to cast a shadow on any successes but to remind me that areas of improvement are still available. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway said, “You learn a lot from the lows because it makes you pay attention to what you are doing.” Attention to wins and losses creates a life balance sheet, where I weigh the quality of the wins while facing the reality of the losses and failures. Static tests performed by engineers are meant to bring awareness to areas requiring attention to make improvements and ensure a successful launch. Once your assessment hones in your attention, you are ready for the next step.
An honest assessment reveals adjustments in both wins and losses columns. In the win column, I ask,
Did this win steal time from my wife and children?
Were the wins synergistic?
Did my wins center on serving others or myself?
How can I get better at winning while making others better?
In the loss or failure column, I ask the following questions:
What was my responsibility in this loss?
Is this failure a result of a habit I need to drop?
How can this failure become a catalyst for growth in my life?
These perspective-adjusting questions capture the observation by former director of the Central Intelligence Gina Haspel that “we must constantly learn, adjust, improve, and strive to be better.”
Lastly, the assessment presents a call to action. Without action, an assessment is not accurate. The impetus for action reflects an assessment that’s gone through the uncomfortable stage of vulnerability, faced hard truths, and accepted the findings with a resolve to grow. Dale Carnegie once pointed out that “inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.” An assessment that inspires risky action is of greater value than one that creates aspiration but yields comfortable inaction. Realistically, the results of action based on an assessment are not immediately noticeable. As consistency is built into any action plan, a rewarding outcome emerges.
In addition to today’s year-end assessment, this month’s blog series will focus on preparation for the new year. The guideposts are as follows:
Year-End Assessment (Today’s Post)
Preparing for the New Year (Part 1) (December 9th)
Preparing for the New Year (Part 2) (December 16th)
No Blog Posts Will Be Published on December 23rd and 30th.
Final Thought: Accurate implementation of everything starts with an assessment. I believe those who periodically conduct assessments of their lives and take action based on their findings reap a better quality of life. Set aside a few minutes in your day to take an honest assessment or contemplation of your year. What areas are calling for your attention? What adjustments are being asked of you? What action (s) do you need to take?
Keep on keeping on!