The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
1749 – 1832
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing some suggestions for living a happier life. One of the keys to living a happy life is to be sure you’re measuring your activities properly.
That probably sounds a little abstract, so let me give you specific examples. I”ll start by asking some questions. You’ll get the maximum benefit by answering each question before reading further.
- How do you measure your success in your job/career?
- How do you evaluate your personal finances?
- How do you rate yourself on health, fitness and lifestyle issues?
- How do you assess the state of your marriage or your romantic relationship?
- What yardstick do you use to evaluate yourself as a parent, friend, and family member?
I’ve found that most people fall into one of two categories. One group fails to make any assessment of how they rate in these areas, while the other group judges themselves against an unrealistic standard.
The group that never evaluates their performance will have a very difficult time making progress toward their goals. As management guru Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” If you fail to measure the success of your efforts, you won’t know works and what needs improvement. And lack of progress towards your goals will certainly decrease your happiness.
The second group strives to achieve an idealized standard: they think they should be the perfect spouse, parent, manager, employee, and friend. And they compare their performance against this impossible standard. Since no one is perfect, this comparison can only lead to feelings of disappointment and inadequacy. No one can consistently perform at the highest level. You may have some outstanding days, but you’re going to have off days too. If you hold yourself to an unrealistic standard, you’re never going to be satisfied with your results.
So what’s the answer?
First, measure your progress. How can you gauge your success if you never examine your results? Monitoring your progress will tell you if your approach is working or if you need to make adjustments.
And second, use ideal outcomes to inspire you and help you develop goals, but don’t judge yourself against that ideal. You don’t need to be perfect, so don’t punish yourself for not matching an unrealistic vision. So long as you’re making steady improvements, you’re on the right track.
Progress, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.
1812 – 1904
Copyright © 2013 John Chancellor