Magna cum laude – that was my goal for graduation from undergraduate school. Magna cum laude was an academic distinction earned with a cumulative 3.8 grade point average. A 3.9 would earn you summa cum laude, but a C and even a D+ in my freshman year made that impossible. If I did everything correctly and earned almost entirely A’s in my junior and senior year, I would graduate magna cum laude.
To motivate and remind myself, I made a large sign for my bedroom. MAGNA CUM LAUDE in bright neon blue hung above my desk and glowed in the lamp light during my late-night study sessions. Half way through my junior year, after a 21-credit-hour semester in which I earned six A’s and a C+, I did some math and realized that magna cum laude simply wasn’t going to be possible. The C+ had mathematically eliminated me. My magna cum laude sign stared down at me as I scratched out the numbers.
I could take down the sign and excuse myself for missing my goal OR I could readjust my goals and charge on. I did some more math, and learned that if I closed out my college career with no more than two Bs, I could earn a 3.7, which was a cum laude distinction. I put away the calculator and pulled out my scissors. Before long, a CUM LAUDE sign hung above desk. I still had a goal to guide and drive me, and just as important, it was attainable.
The summer is a good time to look at the sign hanging figuratively over your desk. Even if you didn’t go through a resolution exercise at the beginning of the year, you likely had an idea of how you would like 2012 to end. Are you on track to hit your goals? Have you evaluated your goals and determined what you would need to do to achieve them by the end of the year? Are your goals still attainable?
In my company, I personally review with each employee his or her performance every quarter. Years of doing this have given us solid metrics that allow us to link activity with productivity. I know what each employee must do every day to reach the goals we mutually set. Measuring this activity and evaluating its impact on measurable results gives our employees a clear path to success. Even more, it allows them to easily identify corrections to their current path, before it is too late.
Too often, we wait until it is too late to make adjustments that would allow us to achieve our goals. We might sense that something is wrong – that our performance and effort aren’t what they need to be – but we don’t have the courage to face these shortcomings. The courage to address shortcomings is one of the most important traits of a successful person, but very few people ever master it. It’s much easier to celebrate successes than it is to own up to failures, but when we try to convince ourselves that everything is good, although we suspect the opposite might be true, we stifle progress toward our goals. Only through consistent, courageous self-assessment can we give ourselves an above-average chance of reaching our goals.
Of course, self-assessment isn’t always painful. Sometimes, these assessments will show that we are actually out-performing our expectations and that our goals are more attainable than we realized. Use these positive discoveries as motivation to charge ahead and consider making your goals even larger.
Before the summer is over, take the time and find the courage to evaluate the progress you are making toward your goals. Make sure that your goals are still attainable, and that you are on the path toward attaining them. If not, adjust now, before your goal slides out of your reach.