Let’s talk about focus for a minute. We don’t necessarily want to become performance-driven people, because putting all of your focus on achieving a certain level removes your attention from things that are most likely more important to you. This may be your relationships, your mental health, your physical health and so on. So we don’t want to be motivated solely from a place of needing to achieve perfection or outdo someone else or even, necessarily, beating our own personal best.
However, we do need to keep tabs on our efforts as we work towards our goals, to ensure that what we’re doing every day is achieving what we need it to, in line with our goals. Otherwise we risk becoming sidetracked with things that are not leading us in the direction we really want to go. So, it is vital that we learn healthy and helpful ways to assess our performance.
If you think about it, it is similar to how I deal with my children’s schooling. I don’t want them to be motivated to learn in order to get the best grades in their class, or win an end of year prize, or to please me. I want them to be motivated to learn because they enjoy it and because it is in line with their goals for their lives. When we go over their report cards for the semester, I don’t get irate with them for not having excellent grades. Instead I view their reports as a way to assess where they are working in line with their goals, what their attitude towards their work is telling me, or whether they may need to change their approach.
As humans, we very often lose sight of the things that are important to us when we get caught up in the activities of life. If you are trying to achieve big goals in life, you need to learn to resharpen your focus over and over again. We need to be able to really scrutinise our activities and see how we’re doing. This is a very important part of keeping us on track and moving ahead and it should be done frequently.
How do you begin to assess your own work?
Well, first it is important to have a really good grasp and understanding of your life goals, because this is the standard by which you will be assessing your activities. If you haven’t yet done so, I recommend that you read this series of articles I wrote about determining your life goals which begins at the hyperlink here. It will really help to clarify things for you and give you a great perspective on the work you’re doing right now.
Now assuming you’ve done the work above already and have a clear picture of your life goals in mind, you need to take a good look at each activity that you’re doing. What does your gut say? If something is working for you, and is in line with your goals, you will probably feel energised and motivated in that area. You will feel like the work is flowing well. If the activity is not working for you for some reason, then you may feel hesitant or stuck in that area. The trick is paying attention to those feelings and beginning to turn your attention to those problem areas.
Begin to interact with the problem areas in your current activities to figure out what is at the base of the problem. Dig a little deeper. Is this activity in line with your life goals, or is it sidetracking you? Many times when we sense that an activity is drawing us away from our goals, we feel a sort of hesitancy about it. Learn to pay attention to that feeling because it is usually telling you something!
Now we need to become problem solvers in order for our reassessment to have any real value to us. When you see that there’s a problem and have recognised what is at the root of it, you’re in a good position to be able to change your approach to that activity. Do you need to take it out of your routine altogether? Reshape it so it’s achieving what it should be? Put it on the back burner for a while? It’s time to redirect and refocus.
Here are some examples of how I assess my own performance in some key areas of my work:
Writing articles for this blog – I stop and recognise how I’m feeling about the blog in general. Usually when I feel like I’m veering away from the vision I have for this blog, I will recognise a feeling of hesitancy and a desire to procrastinate. When I’m in tune with my vision, I feel energised and motivated to write and publish.
If I feel that pull away from writing for the blog, I know that it is time to reassess my work. I ask myself if what I’ve been writing lately is part of the bigger picture, or whether I may perhaps be going off on a rabbit trail. Generally I review what I was writing earlier to see how much I have shifted or changed. I look at my writing plan for the coming weeks and adjust it as necessary to pull myself back into line.
My work as a sculptor and doll maker – Being in a funk with my sculpting work is generally a sign for me that I don’t really have a clear vision of what I’m working on. In art, this is sometimes fine. You don’t always have to plan your artwork, sometimes it’s good to just ease and let it come naturally. If I’m feeling hesitant it usually means that I need to push myself a little harder. I’m a perfectionist, and have a fear of failure that I sometimes have to work through.
In my artwork it is important to reassess my progress and find weaknesses to focus on. I’m very concerned to always be improving and growing in skill so this type of assessment is vital. I also submit work to other artists for feedback as I find that in the subjective world of art, having additional sets of eyes and fresh perspectives is almost always beneficial.
Running my household – Believe it or not, assessing performance in household chores is important too. Not only is it good to make sure that you’re doing a good enough job, we often (at least, I do) tend to overcommit to taking care of our homes. This happens when we begin thinking in terms of other people’s expectations of our homes, and moving away from our own expectations.
Remember, when it comes to keeping house, you work to your own standards or those you and your family have agreed upon. Overworking yourself because you want to live up to some other standard steals away your time and doesn’t really achieve much.
To assess your performance in keeping your home running, all you really need to do is remind yourself of what your goals for your house are, and decide whether you’re working in line with your goals. There’s an article here that may help.
The key in assessing your own progress is not to let it stop with mere assessment. Extend your insights about yourself to continuously tweaking and improving your work methods, your lifestyle, your habits, your time management and so on. If we are diligent to do this consistently, gradually we tighten up our processes so that they’re working with the greatest efficiency possible. We find that our activities begin to dovetail almost perfectly to continue driving us forward towards our ultimate goals. This is the reward of meticulously assessing our actions and retuning to our goal pathway.