In personal growth planning, deadlines and finish lines will help you stay focused on your action plan. Deadlines create a sense of urgency and finish lines provide a sense of fulfillment. The deadline addresses “by when,” the date we have in mind, and the finish line addresses “to what end, ”the objective we have in mind.
In my experience with personal growth coaching, deadlines are much more common than finish lines. Both are important.
Affirmation Finish Lines
The best description of the intended result from a personal growth goal is a well-crafted affirmation statement, which I’ve written about here. You know you have a good affirmation statement when you read it and think to yourself, “That’s not true about me now, but I really want it to be.”
The highest-level finish line in growth planning is your affirmation statement. Read it, as you approach the deadline, and ask yourself, “To what extent is this statement true?”
For example, if you were working on a goal to grow your marriage, the affirmation statement could be something like this:
“I’m enjoying the richness of intimacy, companionship and mutual support with my spouse.”
The affirmation statement describes the why behind your goal of going deeper in your marriage. The next step is creating an action plan that includes people, resources and experiences designed to help you make progress toward this goal.
The affirmation statement itself is the best place to start with your evaluation as to whether you made it across the finish line. But there’s five other ways to evaluate progress.
Five Categories of Evaluation for Personal Growth
Evaluating progress for personal growth goals helps create momentum for future growth and is a critical component of a full circle process. I’ve developed five different categories of evaluation as follows:
Statistical evaluation, which asks: Did you do it?
The statistical evaluation is simply a tally of the countable components of your action plan. If your marriage goal included going on 26 dates, the statistical evaluation is a simple tally of how many times you followed through.
It’s just one data point, and not an absolute measure of the success of your plan. Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Motivational evaluation, which asks: Was your heart in it?
The motivational evaluation moves beyond participation to the attitude behind it. It asks if your heart was fully engaged in the growth process, or if you were merely going through the motions so you could check something off your list. Trust me, that would matter on the twenty-six dates with your spouse!
Practical evaluation, which asks: Did you get it?
The practical evaluation explores the increase of knowledge and/or skill along with its impact on behavior. Think about the time in high school where the teacher asked if you did your homework. You answered, “Yes.” Then she asks if you understand it, and you answered, “No.”
There is a difference between “doing it” and “getting it. ”And it doesn’t stop with formal education.
Relational evaluation, which asks: Are others benefiting from it?
The statistical, motivational, and practical evaluation measure the impact of personal growth on you as an individual. The relational evaluation measures the results of growth on the lives of others. Personal growth begins with you but almost always moves beyond you to the people around you.
You can’t measure progress on a marriage goal by only looking at yourself. You have to look at yourself in the context of interaction with your spouse. Similarly, you can’t evaluate a leadership goal without exploring your interaction with the people you are responsible to lead.
Lifestyle evaluation, which asks: Should I keep doing it?
A lifestyle evaluation explores the staying power of your personal growth. You need a deadline and a finish line to create urgency and fulfillment in pursuit of a goal. But often the activities in your action plan can represent new habits you want to continue going forward.
If you stop engaging with the practices that helped you deepen your marriage you would find yourself on a personal growth hamster wheel circling back later to address the same problems.
The lifestyle evaluation isn’t appropriate for every goal, but it will help you focus on habit formation and the long game of transformation over time.
Personal Growth Systems
James Clear has said, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” That includes a system for evaluating your progress in growth planning.
If you found this content helpful, check out this episode of my video blog, Learning @ the Speed of Life.