In last week’s post, I asked the question “Where are you Growing?” At the end of that post, I started writing about setting a personal growth course. I talked about deciding which area of life you wanted to improve, setting a destination (goal), finding a way to measure progress, laying out steps, and then starting. At the very end, I promised to give some examples this week. This post is me fulfilling that promise. I want to write about two kinds of improvement areas.
These are areas that are easier to measure and therefore easier to track. The components of these areas are concrete and easily countable.
My youngest daughter, Janessa, came home from school for the long 4th of July weekend. Janessa is a certified personal trainer and is doing that on the side while in school in Arizona. On the way home from the airport, she told us about a client she’s working with. She talked about why this client hired her, what her goals are, and what Janessa is doing to help her reach those goals. Weights and reps and speed on the treadmill, things like that are very easy to measure so goals and progress are also easy to measure.
Weight goals are like that. Say you weigh XX pounds and want to lose 10 pounds. There’s your ready-made destination. It is important to add a by when to that goal. So, in this example, you want to lose 10 pounds by the end of the month (say that’s 4 weeks away). There’s your area of life (weight/health), your destination (a certain amount by a certain time), and your measurement (pounds and weeks).
Now you need steps. For example, you might decide to cut artificial sugar and saturated fat out of your diet. You might also decide not to eat anything past 7:00 in the evening. Finally, you may want to increase your exercise level. Let’s say you decide to walk 6,000 steps every day. That one would require a pedometer or similar app on your phone, or access to a treadmill that might measure it in distance rather than steps. Another idea is simply to walk for half an hour every day. Simple, right? Now for the important step… start.
These are areas like interpersonal skills and relationships. It’s much harder to measure these “soft” skills than it is the more concrete things. But, they are often more important to us than many of those concrete things. If I had to choose between losing 10 pounds and improving a relationship, I’d choose the relationship. But how do you measure “improving a relationship?”
One way to measure relationships is by feedback. Do you have an old friendship, for example, that you wish were closer but the only time you reach out to that person is when you want or need something? Maybe they’ve said that to you or you may just feel that way, but that’s the feedback. So, in this case, the area to improve is that friendship. The destination is feedback something like, “I’m glad we’re back in contact.” What measurement would you use? For this example, you could use the number of contacts per month. Your steps would be to put it on your calendar to call that person two times per month just to say hello and catch up.
What about improving an interpersonal skill like listening? That’s your area. What’s your destination? Maybe it’s feedback like, “Yes! that’s exactly what I mean” more often than not. Or, it could be simply hearing people say, “Thank you for listening,” or, “You’re a good listener.” What do you measure that will get you there? That depends on what your barriers to good listening are.
Three weeks ago I wrote a post called “Who’s Story Is it?” Is one of your barriers to good listening that you interrupt people with your story? If so, you could measure that on your way to improved listening. Ask yourself, “How many times today did I insert my story into someone else’s?” Keep track of that measurement until you consistently reach zero and see how that impacts your listening.
Just like with the concrete areas, the most important step in either of these examples is to start. Take action. You can plot the best course possible but if you don’t put the car in drive or hoist the sails you won’t go anywhere. Someone has said, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Let’s get growing.