The focus of this third part will be on the actual tool and steps to use when evaluating your progress. In this article, you will learn that for progress to be attained, goals, objectives or dreams must be achieved first. As you will find out in the article, there are certain factors that can aid or hinder the attainment of goals, objectives or dreams. Understanding these factors and how to know which one to focus on is the essence of this third part of the series.
How is progress measured?
The very notion of progress signifies the existence of a predetermined and definite objective, goal or dream. Progress is never measured in isolation. It can only be measured in relation to a predetermined destination (goal). Bearing this in mind clearly allows you to weigh every thought, attitude, action or activity you engage yourself in relation to your desired goal or dream. IMeaning that, all thoughts, attitudes, actions or activities that doesn’t pull you closer or contribute to the fulfillment of your desired goal or dream don’t qualify as progress. That is; the evaluation of your personal progress in any given period, will only take into account all the thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, actions and activities that pull you in the direction of your desired goals or dreams. Anything short of these won’t pass as progress because progress is the summation of all your deliberate efforts toward a predetermined objective, goal or dream. Goals likewise are not achieved in isolation; it takes the blending of certain personal and external factors for a goal to be achieved. I know this might raise some eyebrows as most people tend to ascribe the achievement or failure of a goal to only personal factors. Well I used to be one of those too, but now I know better, thanks to life for teaching me the hard way.
The Anatomy of Goals
A goal is anything specific and worthwhile that you’ve set out to achieve or accomplish within a definite timeline. To do this will require a lot from you personally. Every dream or goal has certain requirements which have to be met before the dream or goal can be achieved. Having a dream or goal is like cooking a meal or soup, it requires certain ingredients. It is not enough to dream dreams or set lofty goals; do you have what it takes to make it come true? Have you laid down the proper plans required for its fulfillment? Everyone and anyone can dream or have lofty goals, but not many pay the price or sacrifice every dream or goal demands. Little wonder many people are dreamers but only a handful gets celebrated. Only those who draw up a plan for their dreams and work the plan can achieve the dream.
The difference between the dreamers and achievers is that while the dreamers dream the achievers make plans and go to work on their dreams. You are responsible for your dreams or goals. The burden is solely on you, how well are you prepared? You can never blame anyone for failing to actualize your dream or goal if you were ill prepared. Most of what is needed for the fulfillment of the goal or dream to a large extent will come from your personal efforts. This will include a combination of factors such as knowledge, skills, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, actions, activities, habits, plans, resources etc. All of these factors make up the personal ingredients required for the fulfillment of a desired goal. There’s very little you can do personally if all these factors and some other related ones are lacking. These factors constitute about seventy to eighty percent of what it takes to make your goal happen. As much as I would have loved to tell you that those are all you need to make your goal happen, I’m afraid there’s still more; a totally different set of factors much bigger than what you can personally handle. These other factors constitute the remaining thirty to twenty percent requirement necessary for the actualization of a goal or dream. They are naturally outside your direct control.
And here’s why …
On your path towards the achievement of a goal or dream are a number of things outside your direct control. Factors much bigger than what you alone could possibly handle. These factors can be referred to as ‘external forces’ and are mostly environmental in nature. They include; economic fluctuations [e.g. recession, inflation, government legislations etc.], natural occurrences [e.g. death, famine, tsunami, rainfall, illness, etc.], political instabilities [e.g. wars, terrorism, coup d’état etc.], family issues [e.g. death of a relation, divorce, etc.], emergencies and so on. All of these external factors emerge either as threats or opportunities to the fulfillment of your goals or dreams. As humans, most of our time here on earth is spent navigating our way through all of these unforeseen challenges of life. Economists were fully aware of these external factors when they coined the phrase ‘ceteris paribus’ meaning ‘other things being equal’ knowing well enough that goals or expectations can be thwarted or elevated by certain forces other than the human factor – your personal efforts.
Bearing this in mind, an effective approach to evaluating personal progress would include both an evaluation of self [personal analysis] and an evaluation of the environment [external analysis].
Measuring personal progress without taking into cognizance these two factors would yield incomplete results which may further lead to a one-sided conclusion or decision. So, to embark on this seemingly daunting task of evaluating personal progress, I will be borrowing an analytical model from the field of marketing called SWOT analysis.
The acronym SWOT means;
S – strength
W – weakness
O – opportunity
T – threat
The first two letters [SW] which stand for ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ make up the required factors to be considered when conducting a personal analysis [an evaluation of self]. While the other two letters [OT] which stand for ‘opportunities’ and ‘threats’ constitute the required factors to be considered when conducting external analysis [an evaluation of the environment].
Both forms of analysis are necessary for an accurate measurement or evaluation of progress. You’ve got to look at both sides of the coin to get a clearer perspective on how well or poorly you’ve done in trying to achieve a desired goal or dream. The two analysis are;
- Personal Analysis [An evaluation of self]
- External Analysis [An evaluation of the environment]
PERSONAL ANALYSIS – An Evaluation Of Self
Goals are rarely achieved by themselves without the input of human effort. So a good way to assess your progress is by starting with yourself. You need to take a long and critical look at yourself completely x-raying every aspect of your life. An exercise such as this is not meant for pointing fingers or playing the blame game. You’ve got to be true to yourself no matter how hard the truth may hurt. You won’t be doing anyone a favour by lying to yourself because when push comes to shove, no one but you will suffer the consequences. That said, here are some hard questions you need to ask yourself;
- How am I?
- Where am I?
- Where have I been?
- Where am I going?
- Where do I start?
1. HOW AM I?
[evaluation of personal configuration]
The evaluation of your personal progress in relation to your goal begins with an assessment of your personal configuration. What do I mean by personal configuration? Your personal configuration refers to those inborn qualities, features or characteristics that are peculiar to your personality as an individual. They represent those unique traits that make you tick as a person. They include your strengths and weaknesses.
are those things you are naturally good at. They are those set of activities you really enjoy and derive fulfillment from. They include your talents, gifts and passion. Whatever makes up your natural abilities as a person can be referred to as your strengths. They are called strengths because they are what inspire you to do creative work. They are called strengths because doing them makes you come alive with so much creative energy than when doing any other thing else. Strengths are important in the evaluation of progress because progress itself can only be achieved through the use of your strengths. Your progress in business as well as in life can only be attained while doing those things you are naturally good at. Any attempt to engage in activities that drained your creativity will limit how much progress you accomplish per time. The major cause of motion without progress is found in doing things you shouldn’t be doing. Your personal effort will yield better results if channeled only in the area of your strengths. When what you do feels like play, know that is your strength. Your task is to make a list of your talents, gifts and passion and focus on doing only the activities that complements your strength for their in lies your progress. You will only get ahead in life and in business by making use of your strengths to achieve your goals.
are those things you find difficult or boring to do. You are not very good at doing them and don’t derive much joy and fulfillment from doing them. Doing them simply drains your creative energy rather than increasing it. Your progress in business as well as in life will never come by focusing on these areas. You should not focus all your energy, time and resources in developing your weaknesses; they shouldn’t be your priority. What you call your weaknesses are other people’s strengths, so let other people assist you in your areas of weaknesses. Your personal effort will be hindered if you are trying to make progress in your areas of weaknesses. Why? Because your weaknesses are your personal limitations as an individual. They are your average performing activities. No matter how hard you try to master and learn them, they drain your talents, gifts and passion and you feel miserable after doing them. This is not good for your progress.
Therefore, identify those things you don’t really enjoy doing and begin to outsource them to others who find pleasure and great joy in doing them. God is the architect of each and every one of us, to ensure balance in nature; he has endowed everyone with unique talents, gifts and passions. No one is blessed with everything they need to achieve everything they desire. We all need one another in our quest for success. So it is your responsibility to focus on the development of the talents, gifts and passion you have been given and let go of other areas you weren’t so blessed at and let those who have the strengths in those areas take care of your weaknesses for you. Stop doing what you weren’t created to do [weaknesses] start doing what you have been configured to do [strengths].
2. WHERE AM I?
[evaluation of current location]
Since you didn’t set out in vain, the second reasonable place to start your evaluation of self is by identifying first where you currently are in the overall scheme of things. Asking the question where am I? Forces you to focus on the painful reality of the moment and weigh them against the possibilities of the future so that you can estimate the gap between the now and the future. You want to know where you currently stand in relation to the goal you had set out to accomplish. In setting out to achieve a goal, you must have considered and planned out a series of action steps to take in order to fulfill that goal right? For example, if my goal by the end of 2010 was to be in the USA doing my masters at Harvard, then an appropriate series of action steps will include;
Step 1: Doing some background research of Harvard University so as to determine the available courses, tuition fees, accommodation fees, academic requirements, course duration, etc.
Step 2: Contacting the school indicating my intention to enroll for my masters.
Step 3: Sourcing for fund either through educational loans, personal savings, student grants and scholarship or corporate sponsorship.
Step 4: Applying for visa. This is a very crucial stage in goal setting. A lot of people neglect this stage and often wonder why they rarely accomplish much. If you can’t spell out the necessary actions required for your dream or goal to be fulfilled, then you can as well hand it over to someone else to help you fulfill. Why hold on to a goal or dream you have no idea of how to fulfill? The burden of mapping out the plan or course of action required for the fulfillment of a goal or dream rest totally on you the dreamer. No one will tell you or show you how to get to a future only you dreamt of. No one other than yourself can know for sure how far away or how close you are to the fulfillment of your desired goal. If you have an unmet goal, this is where you should probably start from; sit down and draw up a road map (plan, action steps) on how to achieve that goal or dream.
Asking the question; “where am I?” is one good way to assess your level of preparedness and it requires the critical evaluation of four key factors;
1. What you know [knowledge],
2. What you’ve been through [experience],
3. What you’ve done [accomplishment] and
4. What’s being done through you? [contribution]
an evaluation of what you know [knowledge] enables you to understand the progress you are making internally. Where are you in terms of knowledge? Have you learnt the necessary skills, habits and principles required to fulfill your desired goal? Have you contacted that mentor? Have you attended the required seminar? Read the applicable book? Paid for the course? Written the exam? This is very important because progress occurs from the inside-out; first within, then without. The extent at which progress is achieved on the outside is determined by extent of progress occurring on the inside. Knowledge is crucial to progress as it fuels our ability to do on the outside what has been finished on the inside.
an evaluation of what you’ve been through [experience] opens your mind to see how far you’ve come. Where are you in terms of experience? What you are trying to do at this stage is to look for patterns; any consistent behaviour, habit, desire, talent, or thought that can lend a hand as you pursue that goal or dream. Drawing upon the experiences of your past allows you to understand the role that particular goal or dream you’ve set out to accomplish play in your life. This is where you thoroughly check the validity of the dream or goal you pursue. How will this goal or dream draw upon past experiences of your life? Are there any traces from your past that qualifies you to pursue this dream or goal? Sometimes we never fully agree with the goals or dream we pursue because we haven’t taken the time to relate them to our life journey or past experience. What we’ve been through are clues to what is to come and indicators of where we are headed. None of the experiences we go through in life is ever wasted; there is a purpose and a good in everything.
an evaluation of what you’ve done [accomplishment] enables you to understand the progress you are making externally. It allows you to assess how well you are doing on the outside. Where are you in terms of accomplishments? How well are you using the knowledge, skills, habits, principles, attitudes you’ve acquired? It is important because it opens your eyes to see the things you have an ability to do as a result of the knowledge you’ve acquired but may not be currently doing. Also, it is important because it allows you to identify areas of your shortcomings that need further improvements. A little word of caution here, your accomplishments are not measured in isolation but in relation to your destination [dream or goal]. Remember, it’s not just ‘doing something’ but ‘doing the right thing’. The ‘right thing’ comprises any action that is in line with your destination [goal or dream]. Whatever your accomplishments are, if they are not in relation to where you are going, they are only engagements. That is; they kept you preoccupied but never contributed to your overall progress.
an evaluation of what’s being done through you? [Contribution] enables you to understand the essence of your accomplishments. Where are you in terms of contribution? Are your accomplishments yielding the kind of results you want? Asking this question allows you to evaluate the significance of your accomplishments. Often times we are so engulfed with doing [accomplishments] that we never sit back to analyze the eventual effect of what was done. While it is important to get things done and accomplish results, much more important is the impact of those results on our immediate environment. What kind of progress are you making? Is it one that has a positive influence or impact on people? Or are you after progress at any cost at the expense of other people’s life, peace, joy, well being or resources? Progress is measured both in terms of what we’ve done [accomplishments] and what has been done through us [impact]. We must not only do, we must also weigh the long term effects of what we do in the light of others. We all are contributors towards the progress of each others life. Real progress is when your actions are not only beneficial to you or your immediate household but to others too within your sphere of influence.
3. WHERE HAVE I BEEN?
[evaluation of the past]
While it is good to know where you currently are in the overall journey of your life, equally important is the evaluation of where you are coming from. In life, our current predicaments, situation, circumstances or position are direct functions of where we had been in the past. We must never deny the fact that our past plays a significant role in determining what our present and future realities will be. Everyone has a past, the extent at which our past influences our current or future reality totally rest on our hands. Therefore, a proper evaluation of the past is critical in your assessment of how much progress you’ve achieved. The major reason for the evaluation of where you have been [your past] is to enable you take a cue from the events which have occurred. Some people believe their past is past and have little or no impact on their current or future reality. This is not really true.
Your past offer clues that can help shape your future and help you gain mastery of your current circumstances. The most valuable lesson of evaluating the past is that it clearly allows you to see your mistakes and failures from a better perspective. You are better able to analyze without bias the shortcomings of your past actions. Often, due to the urgency of the situation at hand, our sense of judgment tend to be clouded leading to inaccurate decisions or conclusions. Also, because of the changes in time and season, certain knowledge and experience required to make better judgments may be lacking.
A practical example is comparing how friends are made online before the emergence of Facebook with how friends are made now. If my goal was to connect with 1000 people online prior to the creation of Facebook, it might probably take me a much longer time and with much tougher effort due to the way the web operated back then compared to now where everyone are just a click away. The degree of change between my progresses then compared to now would be somewhat around 60 – 70%.
An evaluation of the past enables you to identify the reasons why you succeeded and the reasons why you failed. Anyone of these outcomes stem from two main forces; personal factors and environmental factors. Success can be attributed to certain external factors that enhanced one’s personal efforts at a particular point in time. Likewise, failure could also be attributed to certain external or internal factors. The essence of evaluating the past is to consciously identify which out of these two factors is responsible for one’s success or failure during the particular period under review. Most of the time, a sincere evaluation of the past will reveal that our successes or failures where as a result of personal factors rather than external factors. This is because; we have more control over personal factors than external factors. It requires far less energy and discipline to change your habits, mindset or thinking than it’s needed to change the mindset, habits or thinking of a community.
4. WHERE AM I GOING?
[evaluation of future destination]
This question is the ultimate measure of progress because all other questions must align themselves to this one. If this question is not properly answered, progress can never be attained. What would be attainable would be nothing but motion, which as we’ve previously discussed is a mere movement with no clear direction. Asking the question “Where am I going?” enables you to examine the actions of today in the light of their corresponding outcomes tomorrow.
As has been previously discussed under the 5 principles of progress, a movement towards a positive path is a crucial component or element required for the evaluation of progress. Therefore, where are you headed? Have the outcomes of your past and current activities been tailored towards getting you closer or farther from where you have in mind to go? Is where you are headed in line with your areas of strength? In other words, have you got what it takes to get to where you are headed – destination? Since progress can only be attained by utilizing your strengths and not your weaknesses, you must go where your strengths can be fully maximized and your weaknesses considerably minimized if you must progress. Choosing to pursue a goal or dream in your areas of weakness, will only lead to frustration and emptiness. You can never be fulfilled doing what you don’t enjoy [weakness]. Your success and progress in life as well as in business, lies in pursuing your passion [strengths]. So, go only where your strengths and not your weaknesses can be fully utilized. Meaning, don’t stretch your weaknesses, stretch only your strengths for therein lies your progress and fulfillment.
5. WHERE DO I START?
[evaluation of possible actions]
You will know where to start when you clearly see the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future [destination]. Your current location in relation to your future destination will reveal your next line of action. Since you now know that it’s only by using your strengths and not your weaknesses that you attain progress, a good place to start is to attach a goal to each of your gifts, talents and passion. Make sure the goals you attach to each of your strengths fall under this two categories;
a talent is a talent; a gift is a gift and your passion is your passion, nothing more and nothing else. People don’t pay for talents, gifts or passion; they pay for solutions to their problems. Therefore, until your talent, gift and passion is developed through training and constant practice into a skill that can solve people’s problems, they are as good as useless and can never help you make progress. The essence of being talented, gifted and passionate about something is to make a difference. So your task is to set goals on how to consistently develop and update your strength into unique and useful skills that can be used to solve the problems of humanity.
after your talents, gifts and passion have been developed into skills, goals must be set on what contribution you want to make by utilizing your skills. Therefore, you must pick or attach a problem you want to solve in other people’s live by using each of your areas of strengths to create something unique and useful [SIGNIFICANT] as solutions that people can gladly pay for. As you begin to set your goals and pursue their accomplishment, you must take cognizance of certain environmental factors that are beyond your personal control that can either increase your probability of success or hinder your progress. These environmental factors are in two categories and they make up the external analysis stage of evaluating progress to which we now turn.
EXTERNAL ANALYSIS – An Evaluation of the Environment
The concluding part of this series will be released in an eBook complete with all the previous parts discussed. I know how lengthy this must have been and that’s why I have decided to make the entire series into an eBook that you can download and always reference on whenever you need to evaluate your personal progress as an entrepreneur. Be among the first set of people to get a copy of the eBook when finally done by subscribing below