Self Assessment - difficult but essential

Conducting a self assessment is difficult, but it's absolutely essential if we're going to help ourselves "wake-up" every now and then and get back on the right course for success in our lives. It doesn't matter what your goals are in life, making an assessment of where you're at, your circumstances and where you're likely to be headed are essential for greater success and satisfaction.

Our friends can help us out every now and then by telling us how we might improve, but they don't know as much as we do about our personal goals. And, it's not in their best interest to keep us on track with our vision. Only we can make an honest assessment of whether we're heading in the direction we'd like to.

What prompted this discussion was a truck advertisement I saw on Craigslist back in December of 2009. Here was this little boy standing in front of a huge brown "mud truck" that his dad had for sale. His father had placed the ad on the site explaining that he was selling his truck, looking to get about $700 for it, and his main interest was to get the money in time so the whole family could have a "nice Christmas."

Well, perhaps that man needs to take a good hard look at the advertisement he placed online. What does it say about where he's at, how he lives, and where he's headed? I know what it says to me, but is it instructive to him? If he did a little self assessment, perhaps he might see a lesson or two staring back at him from the ad.

As difficult as a self assessment is to do, we need to perform something like this repeatedly throughout our lives, and perhaps even multiple times a day. If we don't, we can allow ourselves to slip off course and wind up in places we don't want to be. I know this simply because I've been there.

It's Kinda Like...

Think of a self assessment as very much like driving a car. You have an idea of where you want to go, and you use the steering wheel to turn corners and keep the vehicle straight so you arrive at your destination along the route that you have chosen. Now, think of all the little adjustments you're constantly making with the steering wheel - those are changes you make based on hundreds of assessments you make for each mile that you drive.

Just watch the steering wheel when someone else drives. It's never held in place for more than a moment or two. There is always an adjustment being made to keep the vehicle in the lane, on the road, and avoiding potential hazards along the way. That's very much like what we need to do with the results of self assessments - steer our lives differently, and make little adjustments all along the way so we wind up where we intend to be.

Allow me to suggest a list of questions that I find helpful when it comes to performing a self assessment.

  • Is this how I want to live my life?
  • Am I on the right path, heading in the right direction?
  • Where does this lead me?
  • Are these the kind of people I am or want to be?
  • Is this a temporary situation, or more my natural style?
  • Am I leading or following?
  • Am I settling?
  • Is this achievement or existence?
  • Do my actions set a good example for others?
  • Is this what I want to be remembered for?
After you conduct a self assessment, you'll need to see what you like and don't like about your current position and where you're heading. This will help you identify changes you'd like to make, if any, and help you create and refine a set of actions to help get you in a better place and heading in a more satisfying direction.

Example Implementation

I want to give you one simple and personal example of how I implemented this in my life.

When I started college, I worked at a car dealership and sometimes rode a motorcycle to work. I would pick up a co-worker sometimes, and we hung out together on occasion. He wasn't a natural fit for me in terms of a friend, but I figured that I would give it a try.

After a while I noticed that he was advising me about what I should have in my life and what I should be doing. I also watched him do some pretty goofy things that I saw no value in. I also started to understand the nature of the people he was hanging around and thereby getting me involved with.

One day, he suggested that I come by his house and we ride to work together (either in my car or alongside of one another on motorcycles, I can't remember which). My response was quite simply, "I'll find my own way to work."

I had done many a self assessment about this relationship, and realized that:

  • We weren't on a similar path in life. I was attending the University to get myself established in a career, and he was focused on getting a higher dollar-per-hour job.
  • He and his friends had drugs as a focal point in their lives, and I had other focal points that were more achievement oriented.
  • I could see his "road" being quite pedestrian in nature, often bounded by his environment, whereas I was certain that there were other possibilities out there and I wasn't going to limit my "flight path" by what I knew and was comfortable with in my current environment.
  • A big part of his self esteem was based on external images that others had of him. His focus was on "looking good" whereas my focus was on "doing something good."
  • Lastly, it was clear to me that he lived in the "here and now" and was satisfied with what he could get here and now - immediate gratification. I was directing my activities towards making large and lasting investments for the future - delayed gratification.
It's not that my co-worker was a bad person. Quite the contrary. He was a decent enough individual. Other than a less than enthusiastic work ethic, he was a good guy. It's just that his culture and mindset were so different from mine. I feared that continuing involvement would drag me down to lower expectations of myself, and lower overall achievement.

Our parting ways wasn't because of my view of him as much as it was a result of my own self assessment that told me that my path in life wasn't the same as his - even if I had no idea of what my path was at the time - I still knew that it wasn't a similar path as his, and it wasn't a parallel path either. My path would be quite different indeed. So, it was my intention not to get "stuck in the mud" by traveling on his path as one of his companions. My intention was to blaze my own trail.

The bottom line was my self assessment of the relationship caused me to determine that the situation at the time wasn't:

  • me
  • my future
  • a path to success
  • the way I wanted to live
  • my lifestyle
  • consistent with my culture
  • a proper use of my time

Wrapping it Up

It's necessary to make self assessments regularly to keep us on a better path, or at least off the wrong path. If we have a plan (destination), and we know how to get there (route), then we need to make decisions and take action (steer) to keep us on a reasonable course that will lead to our success (arrival). Our success in life is based largely by learning from others who have been successful, and then living our own lives (drive your drive) instead of simply following others.

Abraham Lincoln said, "You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence." He was mainly referring to government's influence on the people, but the same concept applies to ourselves. If we follow others, our initiative and independence is diminished, and with that goes our character and courage.

With that in mind, let's use our best judgment to keep course correcting our own lives by following what we know is right and will lead to success. And, sometimes that means we need to let others "find their own way to work."

Done with Self Assessment, take me back to Mindset of Frugality

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.