It is difficult to make a plan to improve yourself if you aren’t sure how you are making progress towards your goals. Learn how to measure your own success and move on to your goals, right here, right now!
Putting together a personal development plan can seem daunting. It can feel overwhelming to put together a list of personal priorities for the future when the present feels uncertain. How do I know who I want to be six months or a year from now when I am trying to keep myself afloat right now?
I know this from personal experience.
In the two years, I have had to adjust how I thought about my own personal and professional development. No longer relying on an employer paying for my professional development, or asking me to complete a self-assessment once a year, or even having anyone give me feedback on the work I am doing, I have had to figure out what to do next all on my own.
Coupled with trying to kick-start a new business, manage a never-ending job search, and learning to pivot my skills in the middle of a pandemic – well, it’s a wonder I can look past the next hour much less the next month or more.
But I believe we all have the capacity to at least think about the here and now. We can one thing, something, that will propel us forward to meet our goals. This post will be part of a series: in this post, I will explore ways to measure your personal success when meeting your goals, right here, right now.
Lesson Learned: We Work Harder When We Have a Prize at the End
A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. It wasn’t much of a surprise, as over half of my family has been diagnosed and both of my parents are either pre-diabetic or have diabetes. I know how to manage the disease, and still need to keep track of my blood sugar consistently.
Keeping track of my numbers is tedious but necessary. And each doctor visit makes me re-evaluate all of my personal choices for eating, drinking, exercising and such. But there are clear daily goals I can maintain to keep doing well with my own diabetes.
I recall after a doctor’s visit, six months after my diagnosis, I learned that my blood sugar numbers were finally below the goal we had set. I was thrilled. The numbers reflected my hard work. And my personal sacrifices had made a big difference.
So I celebrated with a Big Mac and fries.
Measuring and Rewarding Success on Your Terms
Oh man, that was a good personal prize!
I haven’t had a burger like that since then. I knew and understood that if I wanted to maintain my personal success, I would need to make that a one-time prize of sorts. But I had made that lunch a six-month goal of mine and worked hard every day in order to achieve that goal.
When I think about meeting my own personal goals, that impact me professionally, I would also need a reward that had the same type of meaning. Something that would continue to motivate me the way a Big Mac and fries do (and still do).
I would need to learn how to measure and reward my own success. Professionally, I wouldn’t be able to look forward to a promotion. Or a bigger office. A new title wasn’t on the table.
But what I could do was measure my success against skills I wanted to learn, produce the work that the skills newly allowed, and offer them to others.
But how do you measure personal success on your own?
Four Steps to Measuring Your Success
Without relying on a supervisor or an academic calendar to keep me on-track and motivated to achieve my own goals, I had to develop skills to know when I was making progress or I needed to put my time and energy into something else. Below are four ways I have learned to stay on top of my progress. Which of these tips do you believe would work the best for you?
Set Weekly or Monthly Objectives
When I began my blogging, I had no goals for either the writing, the topics, or the number of readers I wanted to reach. Without a clear objective, I did not stay on top of the writing, taking weeks-long breaks between topics. But once I began to track readers, learned more about their reading habits, and focused on an audience, my writing improved. My readership improved. And the overall traffic improved. Tracking weekly and monthly numbers helped me understand how to tweak my overall goals without changing my writing habits, which was a plus.
Review Your Goals Weekly, Not Daily – and How Far You Have Come
I learned through putting together learning management modules that measuring daily success gave me data I didn’t understand. Was it good that I completed only one module in one day? What if I put together a quiz, which was shorter in text but took longer evaluating the answers? I stopped measuring my goals day-to-day because I needed more substantial data to help me understand the bigger picture. And with more data, I could shape the coming weeks better.
But I know what it feels like working and working toward something that feels unending, especially in isolation. So remind yourself where you have come from. Track the journey from the start when you didn’t know what you didn’t know. And bask in the joy of making progress toward learning something new, until you know the project is over.
Create a Show and Tell Experience
I signed up to present a workshop on income disparity in students from low-income backgrounds participating in student activities. And I was selected to present the workshop!
The only problem? I didn’t have a background in this topic or a workshop to present. But I was committed to becoming as much of an expert as I could in the time between learning I was accepted to present and the actual conference.
The way I knew I had achieved my goal? People asked for the workshop when I completed the session, saying they wanted to share with their colleagues.
Schedule a One-on-One Meeting with Yourself
Buster Benson suggests setting up a plan that you can follow for your own monthly goals review. Yours will probably depend on what kind of goals you want to track. For instance, Buster’s example includes tracking the interests you’re paying attention to and the most important people in your life.
Reviews are really personal, and they need time to evolve into something you find beneficial for helping you track your progress. An example of questions to ask yourself could include these sections:
- What I completed last month that I’m proud of
- A report on my progress for the one habit I focused on last month
- Notes on any experiments I tried
- Goals for the following month, including one habit I want to focus on regularly
- Notes on long-term goals and personal changes I’m working towards
What is the End-Goal? What Does Success Look or Sound Like?
Tracking your goals and objectives is easy to accomplish if you use the tools I described above. But what does success mean to you? And only to you? In order to own our personal development, we need to be able to filter out the limiting thoughts that tell us we’re not good enough, or the voices of our peers who criticize our work, or the looks of our boss who gives us side-eye when we try something new.
So when it is just us, what does success look and sound like?
For me, success sounds like people reading what I’ve written and saying “yes, I understand this.” It looks like the sale of one of my books. And sometimes it is just the intrinsic feeling of accomplishing something that felt impossible, like writing a book or scheduling a training.
I have had to let go of the external ways I used to measure my success. Now I focus on the information that matters most to me. When you look at your own professional and personal goals, what will matter most to you? And how will you track your ability to reach those goals?
Career Coaching for the Mid-Level Career Professional
I have worked with entry-level and mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you as you develop this new skill.
Schedule an introductory meeting so we can discuss a plan that works best for you.