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Professional Development: What Makes Self-Evaluation So Hard?

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Honest Self-Evaluation

This article was inspired by a question from Chitrangada Sharan, "Self-Evaluation: Can you do it correctly?" Many people answered the question "no," or said it was very difficult. Accurate self-evaluation is challenging: There are pitfalls. But once you know what the pitfalls are, you can avoid them and do an effective self-evaluation to move ahead in your professional - or personal - life.

This is one of four articles on self-evaluation. This one looks at the pitfalls and challenges. You can also:

Blind Lady Justice

The blindfold over the eyes of Lady Justice symbolizes disinterest - the lack of bias - a critical factor in self-evaluation.

The blindfold over the eyes of Lady Justice symbolizes disinterest - the lack of bias - a critical factor in self-evaluation.

Pitfalls Prevent Effective Self-Evaluation

There are five pitfalls that prevent effective self-evaluation. When we don't know what they are, honest self-evaluation can seem impossible, or at least painful and difficult. That's why so many people avoid self-evaluation. Yet self-evaluation is essential to success, because we have to know where we are to get where we want to go.

So let's look at the five pitfalls, in detail.

  • Subjective vs. Objective Evaluation
  • Opinions: Our own, or others'?
  • Judgment and Fear as Barriers to Self-Evaluation
  • Bias: Do we really want, and get, the truth?
  • Clarity: What are we evaluating?

This article explores each of these issues in depth, and then goes further. You will learn ways to resolve these issues and perform an effective self-evaluation.

Let's get started!

Subjective vs. Objective Evaluation

Some skills can be evaluated objectively. This means that there is a clear correct or effective answer, and just about everyone would agree. Or it means that there is an obvious result that anyone can see. Here are some abilities that can be evaluated objectively:

  • The ability to solve math problems. If you come up with the right answer, it's right.
  • The ability to write English effectively, with proper vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation. The objective standard is not quite as solid as math, but well over 90% of these issues have a clear, correct way to do it (though that way is a bit different in British English and American English.)
  • The ability to bake a cake that rises. When the cake comes out of the oven, we can measure how tall it is, or see how flat!

Other skills can't be evaluated objectively. The quality of one's work is rated subjectively, that is, it is a matter of opinion, and it will also vary with culture.

  • The ability to make friends. Some people have many friends, others have just a few close friends. How could we say which is better, or even measure friendship?
  • The ability to speak effectively. There are some objective tips and standards, but, in America, there is no standard spoken English. A person who can speak effectively to one group might be tongue-tied elsewhere. Even if we put aside dialects and accents, getting everyone's attention at a party is very different from explaining nuclear physics.
  • The ability to cook up a good meal. A clever chef can even take a cake that didn't rise, chunk it up with ice cream, and call it a cookies and cream dessert!

When we want to evaluate ourselves, we should get clear on what we are evaluating. Can it be measured objectively, perhaps with a test? Or is it subjective, a matter of opinion?

Pointing Out a Perspective

Each person has his or her own perspective and opinion, and that's beautiful!

Each person has his or her own perspective and opinion, and that's beautiful!

Opinions: Our Own, or Others'?

On subjective issues, who's opinion matters most? Our own opinion (our self-evaluation), or the opinions of others?

There is no simple answer to that. Sometimes, our own opinion matters most. Sometimes, another person's. And sometimes, it's a balance. Here are some examples:

  • Relaxation is personal. Let's say you've been working really hard, and you want to relax. What would you do? Maybe you'd go to a party. Me, I'd go to the beach for a swim. Someone else might do a high energy workout, while her friend is doing gentle yoga. When it comes to relaxation, what works for me works for me. And what works for you works for you. No one else's opinion matters. So, in matters of relaxation, self-evaluation is all that matters: Am I tense? What relaxes me? Am I relaxed after I do it?
  • In love, the other person comes first. If I love you, then I want you to feel loved. Each of us has our own Love Language, our own feeling about what makes us feel loved. So, if I want you to feel loved, I won't be a complete doormat, but I will make your opinion more important than mine; I'll do something that doesn't matter to me to make you happy. Maybe I'm on a diet and not eating dessert, but I'll still bake you a cake.
  • In enjoyment, it's a balance. If we want to have a good time together, then we have to do something that works for both of us. If we're going to a movie together, let's pick one we both like.

Not Dressed for Work

Family and friends may like your style, but it still won't fly at work: Family opinions mean nothing at the office.

Family and friends may like your style, but it still won't fly at work: Family opinions mean nothing at the office.

It Gets More Complicated

In many areas of life, the relationship between one's own opinion and the opinions of others is really complicated. We can't please everyone. Yet, to succeed, we must please some people. Or are there even exceptions to that? Here are some examples:

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In Business, Family Opinions Don't Matter

If you're running a business, it really doesn't matter what your family thinks of the product. Your success depends on your customers, not your family. Mark Zuckerberg's dad, a dentist, was probably not an early user of Facebook. When you run a business, it's your customers' opinions that matter, not your friends'.

Even in ordinary professional life, guys, please don't let your wife or girlfriend tell you how to dress professionally! The women want you to look attractive, even sexy. That gets you ahead with them. But if you want to get ahead in business, look for professional advice on how to dress for success.

Creativity, Commercialism, and Success

In Western culture, creativity is an important component of success. But creativity takes many forms. The creativity of graphic arts helps businesses succeed exactly because the opinions of the customers matter. On the other hand, art requires ignoring the opinions of many people. This issue is so divisive that "pure" artists feel they sell out if they work for money, but then they feel they have to be "starving artists." The whole situation is out of balance.

We see this clearly in the lives of great artists, and it plays out in many different ways. Vincent Van Gogh's art was not really liked by anyone during his entire lifetime. He sold only one painting, and that was because his brother, an art dealer, twisted a friend's arm into buying it. But those paintings, worthless in everyone's opinion during Van Gogh's lifetime, now sell for tens of millions of dollars, and bring joy and inspiration to millions of people. I'm glad Vincent Van Gogh ignored everyone's opinion and kept creating according to his own evaluation of what made great art.

Meanwhile, William Faulkner could barely make a living as a literary novelist, and supported himself commercially as a Hollywood script writer.

Entrepreneurs Focus on the Future

Like Vincent Van Gogh, entrepreneurs are creating products for customers in the future. New Age business guru Paul Hawken says that if you have an idea for a new business, you hope people will say, "Huh? What's that?" when you tell them about it. If they're excited by the idea, it' means you're too late!

We Must Choose Who's Opinion Matters

Every time we evaluate ourselves, we must ask: Who's opinion matters here? Is there an objective standard or goal? Is there a competitive standard: Do I want to be the fastest runner or the highest jumper? Does one person's opinion matter most? Or is there a group of people? Or is this a creative or personal or spiritual issue, where my own inner experience of truth matters above all?

Once we decide this, we can create a self-evaluation that includes objective measures and the opinions of others, as well as the results of our own good, hard, loving look at ourselves.

Pay attention to power and authority

In choosing whose opinion matters, we have to pay attention to power and authority. If we want a raise, then the opinion of our boss is the one that matters.

However, many situations are less simple and clear than they appear to be. For example, if we are looking for a job, then the person with the power to hire us is the person who's opinion matters. But that is a different person at each company we apply for. In a big company, we might even get turned down for one job, then hired by a different person for a different job at the same company.

Life isn't always fair

In a fair world, the person whose opinion matters would be fair and rational and available. But that is not this world. Each month, I come across dozens of companies who could make a lot more money with my help. But the owner is too busy, too overwhelmed, or too closed-minded to take the time to get help solving his problems.

It's not just about business – personal life isn't always fair, either. Think how often we just want to love someone, and they don't want our love. Or they want it, and we're even married, but they don't feel the love any more.

Instead of fairness, we get drama.

We Interrupt This Article for a Moment of Drama

Shakespeare's comedies, including As You Like It (Illustrated here), are full of misunderstandings and the need to change the opinion of people in authority. Great for drama and comedy, not so great in daily life!

Shakespeare's comedies, including As You Like It (Illustrated here), are full of misunderstandings and the need to change the opinion of people in authority. Great for drama and comedy, not so great in daily life!

Well, at least life isn't boring!

The best way I know to handle all of this is to remain open-minded while realizing that others are not always. We do our best. We look for good people to be with and good companies to work for. We remain loyalty as long as our loyalty is met with appreciation and respect. And we have a core confidence in ourselves that says, "I know what I have to offer. And if I'm not getting the respect I deserve and a fair hearing for my ideas, then there is a time for loyalty to end. At that point, I'll walk away and find a better job or a better relationship. The world is full of opportunity."

I want to thank Cole Ikerd for pointing out the importance of including the views of others in self-evaluation. When I first wrote about this, I was thinking of self-evaluation as opposed to being evaluated by others. Now, I see that self-evaluation includes considering the perspectives, observations, and opinions of others. This, by the way, is an example of how to use the views of others in one's own self-evaluation. Cole pointed out a limitation in my thinking in a public forum. I was not put out; in fact, I appreciated it. Then I used his course correction to improve my own offerings in this article.

Evaluate: Is she really scared?

An actress photographed herself showing fear and panic to help herself evaluate her acting. Note, that's evaluation of fear, not fear of evaluation!

An actress photographed herself showing fear and panic to help herself evaluate her acting. Note, that's evaluation of fear, not fear of evaluation!

Judgment and Fear as Barriers to Self-Evaluation

Judgement and fear are the greatest barriers to healthy, accurate, useful self-evaluation.

Several people answering Chitrangada Sharan's question pointed out this difficulty in self-evaluation. IDONO said, "be careful what you ask for. You may not like what you get." V. Van Ness says that self-evaluation required "brutal honesty."

Are you ready for honesty?

Honestly, most people are not ready for honesty in important areas of our lives. You see, we are already judging ourselves. Someone says, "I saw a typo in your article here on HubPages," and the old message, "You are a terrible speller! You'll never be a writer if you can't spell" echoes in our heads. Our wife says, "I wish you could come home on time," and we remember the girlfriend who dumped us, screaming, "You're a workaholic!"

This pre-existing self-judgment is real. Studies show that people think 10,000 thoughts a day, and 87% of them are negative. That's over 8,000 criticisms and attacks. And I'd bet that most of them are against ourselves. If you don't believe me, learn mindfulness meditation, learn to witness your own thoughts. I did. And, indeed, it was that bad.

In fact, daily meditation is one of my most important techniques of self-evaluation. I don't try to change my thoughts in that stage. I just watch them, just listen to them. Then, I know where my thinking mind is. And I know I prefer peace of mind. So I'm on my way.

For most of us, that pre-existing negative self-talk sabotages unbiased, effective self-evaluation. Someone may even say, "This is a great article, but I found a typo." And we hear, "Typo! See! Terrible speller! Never be a writer!" We might even freeze up and not publish the article! How can we get past self-judgment so that we can really use the evaluation, fix the bad, create the good, and move forward?

Evaluation from a loving heart

The attitude behind the evaluation

The medicine for self-judgment is a loving heart.

There are many types of awareness, many types of consciousness that we can use to evaluate ourselves. Each type of awareness comes with a different attitude towards ourselves. Some approaches are downright unhealthy; With those, we may produce withering attacks on ourselves and destroy all motivation. Or, the opposite, we may puff ourselves up with grandeur and self-justification, hiding misery within.

Some types of evaluation are potentially healthy but also dangerous. Diagnosis - psychological or medical - is one of these. Clearly, a diagnosis of cancer can be beneficial, especially if we catch it early and there is an effective treatment. But it is not always so. I know a man who was very healthy at 70. Then he was told he had lung cancer, and it was fatal. He died within months. After he died, they found an old X-ray from when he was 58. It contained the same shadow that was seen 12 years later. The man had a benign lung tumor. And it turned cancerous the day he was told it was cancerous. His belief in the diagnosis actually made the growth change from harmless to deadly.

Most cases of judgment arising from diagnosis are not this extreme. But, at milder levels, it happens all the time. We get told us something true about ourselves, a useful piece of knowledge. But we take it to heart in the wrong way. Or we believe the prognosis that came with the diagnosis - that the problem is incurable.

Diagnosis: Flexible

Diagnosis vs. prognosis

I'll give another example. I once worked with a consultant who taught people how to dress for success. She was also aware of the importance of posture in giving a good impression. But she had been told that there was no way to correct a bad posture. I introduced her to yoga and qigong, which can be used to improve posture. She was amazed. She'd been giving a good diagnosis, but a wrong recommendation and a despairing prognosis, to her clients for a dozen years.

Diagnosis describes what we have. Prognosis predicts our future. Diagnosis can be very useful, but is not always needed. (Sometimes, we can know where we are without putting a label on it.) Prognosis is only beneficial when it is accurate. And, very often, prognosis is wrong. Why?

  • There are many options, and no one knows them all. The doctor or psychologist or yogi or other expert who is advising you may be well meaning. But they only know so much. Their statement that your problem is incurable or difficult may be true as far as they know. But someone else - or you, yourself, in your heart - may know a better way.
  • Poor prognosis is profitable. It's sad to say, but, in any field of health care, therapy, or coaching, the professional who says it will be a long, difficult road get to keep their clients for a long time. They make more money that way. The truly great coaches work with people for just a few weeks. Then their clients are healthy and independent and don't need extra support any more. The truly great coaches even say, "My goal is for you to come to a place where you don't need me any more." And they make a lot less money per client.
  • False positive prognoses are also popular - and profitable. They say prostitution is the oldest profession. But I wonder: How about selling snake oil? Miracle cures have been around since the beginning of history, and they're still popular.

The lesson: Use diagnosis, but be very careful about prognosis.

Loving Heart of the Buddha


The loving heart: A safe place to start

There is a type of awareness that supports healthy self-evaluation fully. It is classically called "mindfulness." But that is a translation of a Chinese term, shin, which can be translated as, "mind, heart, or spirit." And the earlier word from Sanskrit is sati, which means "just being."

Here in the West, the mind is closely associated with the verbal mind that thinks and judges. I therefore choose the terms "loving awareness" and "witnessing" for the state of consciousness that allows health self-evaluation.

To be loving means to want someone to be healthy, happy, and successful. And isn't this the purpose of any self-evaluation: To help us by healthier in body and mind, happier, more successful, and more beneficial to others? So a mindset of love is the place to start.

And what about witnessing? To witness means to step back and see what is really going on as objectively as we can, and to report it accurately. To pick up on an earlier example: We see a misspelling in a published article we wrote here on HubPages. We hear two voices. One says, "Oops! A misspelling. I want to fix that." The other one starts the tirade, "You're a terrible writer; you can't even spell! Give up before everyone sees how ridiculous you are." But, in witness consciousness, we hear both voices. We follow the first and correct the spelling error. Then we calm down the second, saying, "It's okay. Mistakes can be corrected."

In a loving consciousness that precisely sees the geniune evaluation, we can act to make things better. That same Loving Awareness allows us to heal our self-criticism, and end the perpetual attack on ourselves.

A Biased Perspective

In people, a head cocked to the side is a sure sign of bias and suspicion. Birds, though, have eyes on the side of their heads, and are just looking closely.

In people, a head cocked to the side is a sure sign of bias and suspicion. Birds, though, have eyes on the side of their heads, and are just looking closely.

Bias: Do We Really Want, and Get, the Truth?

Bias is a steady tendency that takes us in a particular direction. Bias is like the wind, if you're hitting a golf ball. If you don't take the wind into account, you will consistently miss the green on windy days. To be on target, you've got to know which way the wind is blowing, and adjust for it. To get an accurate evaluation or self-evaluation, you need to discover any bias, and take it into account.

Bias is different in self-evaluation, in the opinions of others, and in objective measures. Let's look at each in turn.

Self-Image: Bias in self-evaluation

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says, truthfully and rather humorously, that in Buddhism there are three diseases of self-image: having a high self-image; having a low self-image; and having an accurate self-image.

Right now, in creating a self-evaluation, we are seeking an accurate self-image. So let's not worry about why the Buddhists think that is a problem. Let's just focus on the problem of a high self-image and the problem of a low self-image.

Pomposity: High Self-Image

Polonius, a character from Shakespeare's Hamlet, is a classic pompous man, with all the flaws of having a high self-image.

Polonius, a character from Shakespeare's Hamlet, is a classic pompous man, with all the flaws of having a high self-image.

The problem of high self-image

When we have a high self-image, we think we can do things we really can't do, or can't do well. We're likely to get into trouble. We may be counting on a raise or a promotion, and find that we're stuck in a rut, instead. We may think we're the greatest thing since sliced bread, only to be dumped or divorced by our girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband. So, if we have a bias of thinking we are better than we are, it's time for a reality check.

There's another form of a high self-image. It's where we put on a false show. We know we're not up to snuff, but we can't face it. So we tell ourselves, and maybe others, as well, that we are good when we know we're not. In this case, we really have a low self-image, but we paste a high self-image on top of it, to cover up.

The Perfectionist Trap

I have a friend who is a perfectionist. She thinks she doesn't do as well in her scholarship as she might because she isn't good enough. The truth is that she is brilliant and excellent. She's too smart for most of her colleagues. They can't keep up.

She is great, and her work is great, but her self-evaluation is off. She thinks she needs to do better, but she doesn't. In fact, she needs to simplify what she is saying, taking it down a notch so that others will understand it. Once she realized where she is, she can move in the right direction.

This is the perfectionist trap, where being great still isn't good enough. It seems like we're demanding a lot of ourselves, too much of ourselves. But Julia Cameron, author of the best-seller, The Artists Way, sees it differently. She sees perfectionism as a cop-out, a way of avoiding sitting down and doing the hard work of creating and being productive. But that hard work is joyful work. As she says, it is easier to do the work (of being creative), than it is to not do it and complain that we can't.

The problem of low self-image

Low self-image is very common, and it comes from that voice of inner criticism I wrote about above. Here, our bias is that we perpetually think we are not good enough. We steer away from completing, or even starting, things we could truly enjoy doing and do well. We give the world so much less than what we are capable of giving, and feel so much more miserable, too.

In truth, each of us is magnificent, just as we are. Let's let ourselves shine!

In practice, we can heal low self-image by working with objective measures, making small steps, and praising ourselves a lot for each small success.

Perfectionism, which I discuss in a sidebar, is a special case of low self-image.

Your Self-Image

Bias and projection in the opinions of others

It has been said that no one can truly see outside of themselves. I don't know if this is always true, but it is true frequently enough that we must take any opinion from someone else with a grain of salt. We must be open to the truth in their opinion. But we must also acknowledge that they might be wrong.

When other people can't evaluate us fairly and effectively, they are usually making one of four mistakes: putting us on a pedestal; being nice; running us down; or being stuck in their own stuff.

Putting us on a pedestal

If we ask someone to evaluate us, there is a chance that they admire us, that they see the good in us, and that that matters to them. If they are accurate, then that is just fine. But if they've put blinders on and are only open to seeing the good in us, then their evaluation will be biased. They will not see our flaws, and so they can't help us correct them.

Putting someone on a pedestal is, towards others, the same as what we do when we give ourselves an inaccurate high self-image. In fact, if someone does this and we believe them, then their bias is likely to add to our own. We may end up thinking we're great, and missing failings that we could - and maybe need to - correct.

When we maintain a false high self-image and it is compounded by others putting us on a pedestal, we are headed for trouble. We can turn again to Shakespeare for an example: In The Tempest, Caliban, a native half-demon, joins with Stephano and Trinculo, two drunkards, and praises them to the hilt. They, in turn, praise him, and the three develop a ridiculous plot, well beyond their powers, to overthrow Prospero, the lord of the island.

Beware of the delusion that comes with falling into a self-congratulatory crowd!

A Sparring Partner

When we learn combat, only an opponent who does her best to defeat us really helps us, as we see in this photo from the Prima Spada School of Fence in Australia.

When we learn combat, only an opponent who does her best to defeat us really helps us, as we see in this photo from the Prima Spada School of Fence in Australia.

Being nice

It's nice when someone is nice to us, but it doesn't help us evaluate ourselves. When a friend, boss, or co-worker is nice, it is similar to putting us on a pedestal. The difference is, when they put us on a pedestal, they actually do not see our weaknesses. When they choose to be nice - and this happens a lot - they know our weaknesses, but don't hurt our feelings, and so they don't tell us.

Either way, we're not getting their help in seeing our flaws, the flaws we want to improve.

There is a Chinese saying that your sparring partner is better for you than your best friend. Your best friend is kind, and will tell you that you are just great the way you are. But a good sparring partner cares even more deeply.

Picture that you are actually a martial artist heading into a fight with your enemy. As you prepare, a friend comes by. You ask him if you are ready, and he says, "Sure. You'll win. We'll be laughing about this at dinner." But if he's being nice, you might be eating dinner in a hospital!

Your sparring partner comes by, and you ask, "Am I ready?" He replies, "I truly care about you. You are very good, and you have a chance. But when we fight, you drop your guard. Let me show you." He takes you into the ring and gives you three or four solid blows to your left side. Now you know how weak you are. You get your guard up. Your sparring partner bows to you and says, "Now you are invincible."

A sparring partner is not nice. He would rather hurt you a bit now than let you get really hurt later. He will hurt you to save your life.

A sparring partner can be a greater gift than a great friend, if the friend is too nice.

Running us down

Some people don't put others on a pedestal; they have the opposite problem. They need to run other people down as a way of trying to feel good about themselves. There are many forms of this, from snobbery to bullying to critical perfectionist judgment of others.

And be careful. Some people do this with everyone. Those folks are pretty easy to avoid: Just exclude their opinion from your self-evaluation. But some people are fair in general, and then pick targets to pick on. If they choose to pick on us, we can get into trouble. We think they are fair, and therefore we think that the nasty things that they say must be true. Watch out for this. If you can, find an unbiased person and ask if the other person is being unfair and picking on you. If they are, then ignore their opinion in your self-evaluation.

Thinking, or Listening?

This is a beautiful poster and a complex work of art. But can someone reflecting on this much really see us as we are? Or will we always be interpreted through the lens of his or her own issues?

This is a beautiful poster and a complex work of art. But can someone reflecting on this much really see us as we are? Or will we always be interpreted through the lens of his or her own issues?

Being stuck in their own stuff

There is a third way in which people can fail to give us an accurate evaluation. They can simply be stuck in their own stuff. I'll share an extreme example that happened to me last week. I had a cat who was sick and I had to take her to the vet. My handyman, a friend of mine, was working outside my house. He found a wounded lizard. He said, "I bet your cat bit this lizard. That's terrible. These lizards have a poison in them. My dog bit one, and the vet bill was $800."

Now, my cat is an indoor cat, and could never have gotten to that lizard in the back yard. On top of that, my cat had been sick for eight months. This guy - and he really is a nice guy - was so lost in his own story that he couldn't see me or what I was facing at all. I disposed of the lizard and got my cat to the vet, where I could get an accurate, professional evaluation of her condition.

Stephen Covey talks about this by creating an imaginary visit to an optician who tries to hand you his own glasses. "Here, these glasses work for me. I'm sure they'll work for you."

This type of thinking is, of course, ridiculous. And it is all too common. Many people are so absorbed in their own thinking, their own problems and solutions, they can't really attend to yours and see you, your problems, or even your good qualities for what they are.

So, if you feel you're talking to someone and they're just not getting it - that they're way off target - you're probably right. Thank them for helping, let go of their perspective, and walk away.

You've cleared away all of the garbage and bias. Now, you are really ready to look at where you are and where you want to be. You are ready for a clear self-assessment, assisted by objective evaluations and the opinions of others.

Clarity: What Are We Evaluating?

Some evaluations, such as developing a clear statement of your own purpose in life, can take six months. Others are simple and take just a few hours. So it is important to ask three questions: How big is this evaluation?; Are the goals already clear? and, What am I evaluating here?

How big is this evaluation?

Here are some detailed questions that will help you determine the size of the evaluation:

  • Am I re-evaluating my whole life or my purpose? If, for example, you are changing career or facing a mid-life crisis, or working to become more spiritual or creative, then you want a deep self-evaluation that, according to personal growth expert Stephen R. Covey, might take 6 months. If so, you will want to read: Self-Evaluation in Personal Development: 1st Step to Life Purpose.
  • Am I re-evaluating my entire job, my entire marriage, or the totality of some entire role or relationship? If so, then allow a good deal of time.
  • How often will I re-do this evaluation? For example, I do a big re-evaluation once a year, a medium-sized one each season, and a small one each week. That way, I constantly steer towards my goals.
  • How much information can I handle? There is no point overwhelming ourselves with too much information. That's the road to burnout. Be sure to get only as much information as you can actually use!

Consider these issues in writing your evaluation questions and planning your evaluation. When in doubt, keep it simple and small! If you do a small evaluation and use it to make good changes, you can always do a larger one later, after you have more experience.

Are the goals already clear?

In some cases, the goal you are evaluating yourself towards is already clear. Perhaps there is a promotion or a bonus, or your significant other has just told you that you'd better learn to do the laundry! In that case, you need only evaluate your current ability. The goal is already set.

But if the goal is creative, open-ended, or vague and undefined, the defining the goal is part of the self-evaluation. You will define both where you are and where you want to be. Of course, this is twice as much work!

What am I evaluating here?

These questions will help you define your evaluation clearly. First, let's look at large evaluations:

  • What role or roles am I evaluating?
  • Am I creating a new role, such as taking on a new career?
  • Am I facing a major change of purpose or direction?

For smaller evaluations:

  • What specific goal or goals am I trying to achieve with the information from this evaluation?
  • Are those goals well-defined SMART goals? (SMART is an acronym for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable; Realistic; Time-bound)

Defining Your Evaluation

Using the questions above, you have scoped out the outline of your self-evaluation. In review, you've answered these questions.

  • What is the overall topic, or scope? One way to think of this is to say, "What role am I evaluating?" Am I evaluating myself as an employee? As an entreprenuer? As a friend, a lover, a father or mother?
  • What is the goal I want to achieve? Maybe I am asking, "Can I really take care of my father if he comes to live with me?" Maybe I'm asking, "can I really achieve my sales target for the next three months and win the bonus vacation?" Know your goal; know what's at stake.

Once the overall evaluation is well-defined, it is time to write the specific questions you want to ask about where you are now? That is what questions, when answered, will help you achieve your goal?

An example: Thinking through the questions

We may want to break questions down into details. For example, let's say we are going for a 3-month sales goal. We divide the month into days and calculate how much we have to earn each day. Have we ever earned that much? If so, we know we can. If not, we need to look deeper. Also, for each question, we ask: Is there an objective measure for success? For example, if every salesperson who has won this prize made 100 calls per day, then we ask ourselves, "Can I make 100 calls per day? How?"

We also look at subjective opinions. Who can we trust to be fair, but not too kind, and help us achieve our goal. Every salesman needs a good sales coach. Do you have one?

Lastly, and most importantly, we evaluate ourselves. Some questions are easy to measure: Are we willing to put in the hours to reach the goal? Others are harder: What am I willing to give up to reach this goal? Others require some thought: What do I need to learn to be a better sales person? What kind of self-motivation really works for me? How do I recover from a customer saying "no" and get back to work?

Answering these types of questions gives us our self-evaluation. And our self-evaluation leads very easily to an action plan. Put that plan into action, and you're on your way to your goal.

Ready to Evaluate Yourself

You are ready to evaluate yourself, and to include objective measures, your own opinions, and the opinions of others in a very effective way. Please read this table to review what you have learned:

Self-Evaluation Problems and Solutions: A Review


Subjective vs. Objective

Measure what can be measured. Recognize opinions as opinions.

Opinions: Our Own, or Others?

Decide clearly who's opinion matters, and plan your evaluation accordingly.

Judgment and Fear

Establish a firm ground in loving awareness and witnessing. Evaluate to improve your actions and results, not to judge yourself. Know you can grow!

Bias in Ourselves

Want the truth, and be aware of your tendency to high or low self-image.

Bias in Others

Be sure to ask: Where is this opinion coming from?

The Need for Clarity

Define the scope of your self-evalation very clearly, set goals, and create clear questions.

If anything in the above table wasn't clear, please go back up and read the appropriate section. You'll get it!

If it was clear, then you're all-clear for a self-evaluation.

Your Next Step

There's a lot to learn in this one article. I'm here to help: Feel free to post a question in the comments section below. Or give me a big of feedback: I'm always open to your evaluation of my writing!


Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 11, 2013:

Hi Miss Olive. Thank you for your thoughts and for sharing your experience. Regarding perspective. There is an advanced executive evaluation technique called the 360-degree review, where one receives evaluations from superiors, colleagues, and team members who report to you. I mention it because of your phrase "without becoming paranoid": The method includes debriefing with a psychiatrist to prevent exactly that!

Actually making a video recording can also be useful for self-evaluation. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm close.

Your father sounds like an exceptional human being. From what I see most of the time, family business = dysfunctional family + family business = dysfunctional family business. Sounds like your father was making an exception to that rule.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on June 11, 2013:

Sid, this is an exceptional hub and a comprehensive view of self-evaluation. My comment cannot even come close to all the wonderful details you focused on.

I find having a keen perspective to be a key in improving one's self-evaluation; not just MY perspective, but being aware of everyone else's perspective. This can be very hard to gauge. Creating awareness of perception without becoming paranoid can be tough if your self esteem is not intact.

One of the things I (sometimes) do is I imagine a video camera is recording me, it makes me much more aware of how I present myself and it helps me reflect on how I could have handled things differently. Thanks again for a great read, I'm bookmarking this one so I can read it again. I'm inspired by anything having to do with reflection and awareness.

By the way, I grew up in the family business and this line of yours really hit home, "IN BUSINESS, FAMILY OPINIONS DON'T MATTER". May God bless my dad and may he RIP for all he put up with. He was an incredible role model for integrity.

Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 05, 2013:

Right on target, Tamara. And when we release the shame, guilt, embarrassment or self-judgment, then recognizing our failings contains no "admission." We accept our current failings, and find them easy to improve.

Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on June 05, 2013:

Self-evaluation is hard because we rarely want to admit our failings, much less work to improve them.

Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on May 26, 2013:

Hi neighbor. :) I will definitely check out your other hubs, glad to have another friend on hubpages.

Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 24, 2013:

Carly! Thank you. Delighted to meet a fellow Floridian. Not only is this many hubs in one, it is one of a set of four (three are published now, one coming soon.) And given your thought on how we react to the opinions of others, I think you'll really like what I wrote in my set of hubs about 7 Habits. I hope you'll check them out and I'll hear more from you. I really appreciate the share - let's help each other help as many people as we can.

Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on May 24, 2013:

HOLY COW! This is many hubs in one. Definitely a great treasure to find. You have so much impactful information. I especially liked when you said, "In choosing whose opinion matters, we have to pay attention to power and authority." This is so true. Sometimes we get so bent out of shape with others do not agree with us or judge us. We forget to look at the source. Whose opinion really matters? Voted up and shared!!!!

Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 06, 2013:

Hi Martie: Thank you for affirming that objectivity is possible, and sharing your own experience. Many people find that hard to believe.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on May 06, 2013:

Useful comprehensive article about self-evaluation and the pitfalls that prevent success. I am constantly doing self-evaluation since a very young age and remember how difficult it was to avoid the pitfalls. Eventually one is able to be completely objective and even emotionless while evaluating oneself. After evaluation the way to successful development is, of course, making and applying positive decisions. Voted up and very well presented.

Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 02, 2013:

Thanks Sarifearnbd. I'm glad I could share my experience.

Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 02, 2013:

Yes, Koralee, for many, the basic problem is being stuck in our own stuff. In past generations, it was often being stuck in society's stuff - obligations and moral rules. It takes a lot of focused energy to reach escape velocity and leave behind an old identity.

Koralee Phillips from Vancouver British Columbia Canada on May 01, 2013:

Great hub! It's very detailed and thought provoking. I really enjoyed reading it, and like your insights. Thank you for devoting so much of your time to write it.

I think that people are stuck in their own stuff and that is the largest barrier to them providing accurate evaluations.

Nowadays people every where seem more self absorbed than ever before. It's kind of sad. There is so much stress and misery in the world people are getting buried mentally in their problems.

Sid Kemp (author) from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on May 01, 2013:

Yes, KrisL, worry can pretend to be objective, can't it!

KrisL from S. Florida on May 01, 2013:

I love how comprehensive this is.

You show that the issue of self-evaluation is a lot more complicated than it looks, but then you go through it systematically. I think for me the most important thing is sorting out my worried mind from more objective self-evaluation.

Voted "Awesome" and shared.

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