Creating Your Personal Review: Staying On the Right Track “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

– Nelson Mandela

In a previous blog, I wrote about the benefits of having an accountability partner to help make sure you are staying on the right path. Now I want to share another method that helps me a tremendous amount in my growth, and keeps me motivated: producing a monthly personal review. The last day of every month (or as close as I can get to that, schedule permitting), I sit down and examine the goals I’ve set for myself the previous month, and assess how I’ve performed throughout the month. I do this for a three reasons:

1: Reviewing monthly helps to reveal the lies we tell ourselves: One of my biggest weaknesses when trying to eat healthy is soda. Each month, I aim to cut down the amount of soda I drink. Before I would assess each month, I would convince myself that I wasn’t drinking that much soda on a day to day basis, and I would focus on the days where I went without even drinking one to pat myself on the back. However, when I looked at a full month in retrospect, I could see that I was still drinking entirely too much, and needed to do better. Just having that simple fact in my mind helped combat the lies I would tell myself and justifications I would make each day to convince me to give in to my cravings.

2: Reviewing my goals monthly helps me see progression and raises my self-confidence: Just as reviewing your goals monthly helps identify aspects in your life in which you are having trouble with, it also helps identify areas you’ve succeeded in. There is something incredibly fulfilling to me when I can actually see some form of growth in my life, whether I saved more money this month, ate healthier, or spent more quality time with the people I love.

3: Done correctly, personal reviews help to review all aspects of your life: When a certain aspect is going particularly well, or particularly poorly for that matter, we can fall into the trap of having a singular focus on one of aspect of our life. While a personal review can’t immediately cure that type of tunnel vision, I believe it helps to broaden the spectrum of awareness.

Take a look at every aspect of your life.

Don’t just focus on what’s going right or wrong. Sometimes people fail to grow because one aspect of their life is going really well, while they ignore others. For example, a person who is intensely focused on their success in the career field might work 80 hour weeks. When they examine their growth, they focus on their career and assume they are living a successful and fulfilling life. However, they’ve stopped connecting with friends, neglected a healthy diet and their regular workouts, and in a few years find themselves in poor health and a weak social support group. However, after putting so much effort in their career, they’ve achieved a mild amount of success in their field of work and don’t want to sacrifice time in this area to work on the other aspects of their life.

To me, that’s like getting one side of a rubik’s cube all one color, and then refusing to turn the cube anymore because you don’t want to ruin the side you’ve already got right. Sometimes, in order to be successful in all aspects of our life, we need to experiment with other strategies on the sides we’ve already “figured out” to make them more efficient and free up time to invest in the aspects we haven’t yet succeeded in.

Spark your growth:

In order to plot out your personal growth, first you need to think about the aspects of your life that you’d like to improve upon. What are the sectors in your life that you hold to be the most important? Once you have the different areas of your life mapped out that you’d like to grow, you are ready to start creating your personal review.

1. Create your own personal review

I’ve included a brief sample of my own personal review below. Feel free to use that format. If you’re unsure about how to lay it out in its entirety and would like my input, feel free to shoot me an email at chad@buildthefire.com. Don’t be one of those people who don’t like to impose. If you want to grow, I want to help in any way I can. The only thing I ask in return is that you follow through to the best of your ability

2. Write down the different aspects in your life that are important for you

Here are some sectors of life you can focus on: Financials, career, health, family, and friends.

3. Review your progress monthly, and reevaluate your goals

I’ve experimented with different lengths of time between reviews, from every six months, every quarter, monthly, and weekly. Go with whatever works for you, but for me, six months and quarterly were both too long in between reviews, and I felt myself far off course when I’ve come back to review. On the other hand, doing it weekly became a burden and consumed too much time. Monthly was a good compromise that allowed me to stay on the right path, but wasn’t exceptionally time consuming.

Start now » It may not be the end of the month, but a personal review can be done at any point in time. Once you’ve selected your destinations for all sections of your life, it’s time to start holding yourself accountable via personal reviews. Make sure to acknowledge areas where you are successfully growing, as well as areas you’re not performing as well as you’ve hoped. Keep measuring, keep growing!

Here is a sample of the beginning of the review that I’ve created:

A. Brief overview of how I felt the month went overall

B. Finances

a. Metrics

i. Net worth ( I use mint.com to help with this)

ii. Metric – Money spent on food (one area I personally identified as a point of struggle)

b. Overall look back on why I succeeded or failed in the goals I set for last month

c. Goals for the next month

C. Career

a. Metrics

i. Company performance