Self-Improvement

What Do You Want on Your Headstone?

Rate yourself on key performance attributes.

Each of us is equipped with a number of talents and abilities. However, it's not what you have under the hood that counts, but rather what you do with what you have that is important and that determines your level of self-fulfillment.
Are you using your unique talents to the best of your abilities? When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Are you living your life so that when you die, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying? To help in that journey of self-discovery, take the following quiz and find out where you stand. Then determine which of your assets to emphasize and which of your liabilities you need to improve.

Setting priorities.

Do you know what and who are the priorities in your life? Have you developed a personal mission statement, complete with written goals and objectives that you use to guide your daily decision-making process?

  1. Have no idea what you're talking about.    
  2. Have thought about writing a personal mission statement.    
  3. Have written one but seldom do I refer to it.    
  4. Can produce a written mission statement that guides my daily decisions.

Time management.

Organization is not checking off some trivial "to-do" list but rather creating time to achieve those elements of your life - professional, family, social, health, intellectual and emotional - that bring the greatest return. Are you organized to get done those things that are important or do you end up each day, each week, each month wondering where the time has gone and promising yourself that you're serious about doing it, whatever "it" is?

  1. Don't even make a grocery list.    
  2. Check off a to-do list but it just contains my daily chores.    
  3. Do a pretty good job of making room for those elements in my life, but I've gotta run now or I'll be late for the gym.    
  4. The balance in my life would make a tightrope walker jealous.

Hard work.

The best players are outworking -- and outthinking -- their competition. Never rest and never tire from pursuing your objectives. One of the best coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi, said, "The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Do you give it your all?

  1. I'm waving the white flag right now.    
  2. I know the value of breaking a sweat but would rather watch somebody else do it.    
  3. I break a sweat, but don't always have to shower.    
  4. I could play for Vince.

Self-improvement.

Do you constantly look for ways to improve yourself in all of the major aspects of your life - professional, physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual?

  1. I'm as good as it gets baby.    
  2. I'm always running out of time to self-improve.    
  3. I do some things to improve myself, but it's not a top priority. It's nice to have not a must-have.    
  4. It's part of my daily routine.

Passion.

Do you really enjoy all aspects of your life? Do you have the dream job, the dream body, the dream mind, and so on and so on? For as Jack Nicklaus, whose name is synonymous with golfing, said, "It's difficult to excel at something you don't truly enjoy."

  1. I hate golf, always did and always will.    
  2. Jack's right. I want to get excited about my life, but I'm not right now.    
  3. It feels good, so I'm doing it. But the earth hasn't moved yet.    
  4. Just had a hole-in-one!

Happiness.

In a related vein, you don't seek happiness - you create it. Happiness lies for those who cry, those who hurt, those who have searched, and those who have tried, for only they can appreciate the importance of people who have touched their lives. Happiness is wanting what you have, not having what you want. Where do you stand on happiness scale?

  1. Still looking for happiness in all the wrong places.    
  2. Got the plans but haven't started building.    
  3. Building the house of my dreams.    
  4. Living in the house of my dreams.

Attitude.

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it. One day, a donkey fell into an old abandoned well. An old farmer, passing by, said, "The old well is abandoned and the donkey isn't worth trying to save," so he started to shovel dirt into the well to bury the donkey alive. After the first shovel full of dirt came down on the donkey, the beast of burden realized something: every time dirt landed on his back, he could shake it off and step up. The farmer kept shoveling and the donkey kept shaking it off and stepping up. This went on for some time, with the donkey shaking it off and stepping up, shaking it off and stepping up. And it wasn't long before he stepped out of the well exhausted but triumphant. No matter how difficult the situation, no matter how bad things get, no matter how much dirt gets dumped on you, how well do shake it off and step up?

  1. I'm covered up with all of life's troubles.    
  2. I've got to get moving.    
  3. I'm stepping on up.    
  4. I'm out my hole and charging ahead.

Dream.

Most of the events in life had their origins in a dream. Somebody dreaming of a bigger, better or brighter future. "If you can dream it, you can do it," said Walt Disney, who made a future out of bringing dreams to life. Do you, like Walt, dream of a brighter tomorrow?

  1. I woke up screaming from a nightmare.    
  2. I can't remember my dreams.    
  3. I dream, but only in black and white.    
  4. I dream in living color.

Empathy.

People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Can you put yourself in other people's shoes? Do you try and understand how they are feeling?

  1. I wouldn't be caught dead in anybody else's shoes.    
  2. I looked but their shoes don't match my outfit.    
  3. I tried, but got blisters on my feet so I took them off.    
  4. I put a pebble in them and walked another mile.

Communication.

Are you good at connecting with other people? Do you listen twice as much as you speak? Do you fully engage others with the idea of finding out what's really on their mind?

  1. What did you say?    
  2. I spend more time talking than listening.    
  3. I'm learning the art of communication.    
  4. I seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Flexibility.

The strongest tree of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It's the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun. Despite our own personal struggles, are you strong enough to bend?

  1. I'm sawdust.    
  2. I'm an acorn.    
  3. I've survived some severe weather.    
  4. I'm strong enough to bend and can weather any storm.

Affability.

All things being equal, people like to do business with people they like. All things being unequal, people still like to do business with people they like. Are you easy to get along with? Do people enjoy your company?

  1. Hey pal. I don't have time for all this psycho mumbo jumbo.    
  2. I was wondering why I always was a day late and a dollar short.    
  3. Guess I could do a little better business.    
  4. I'm fighting off the customers. Take a number please.

Creativity.

Are you able to think outside of the box? To look at issues and problems from a fresh and unique perspective?

  1. Is there life after the box?    
  2. I'm a prairie dog. I pop up and look around once in a while, but the box is cozy.    
  3. I get out from time to time but I always keep the box in sight.    
  4. I've been out of the box for so long that I couldn't tell you what it looked like.

Persistence.

A first-time novelist sends out his manuscript and gets 121 rejections. Sending it out one more time, Robert M. Pirsig gets his first "yes", and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance goes on to sell more than three million copies. How much stick-to-itiveness do you have?

  1. When the going gets tough, I don't.    
  2. I look for the path of least resistance.    
  3. I stick with it pretty well but I've got several things I haven't quite finished, if you'll excuse me…    
  4. Like a fly on flypaper, baby.

Proactivity.

Do you shape things before they shape you? Do you take initiative, or do you merely react to the situation? Writer and educator, Leo Buscaglia, said it best, "To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure. But risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, live or love. Chained by addictions, he's a slave. He has forfeited his greatest trait, and that is his individual freedom. Only the person who risks is free." How good are you at taking a risk? If you don't take a chance, you'll never stand a chance.

  1. I'm sitting this one out.    
  2. I'm scared to take a risk.    
  3. I like to work with a safety net.    
  4. Who needs a safety net?

Optimism.

"No pessimists," Helen Keller said, "ever discovered the secrets of the stars or sailed to uncharted lands or opened a new heaven to the human spirit." Why? Because they see the possible in the impossible - just like the two boys escorted out to a stable only to find a stall full of horse manure. They started digging feverishly, saying that with all of this crap in here, there's got to be a pony somewhere!

  1. I don't even want to go to the barn because it smells so bad.    
  2. Sure is a lot of manure in this stall.    
  3. I'm looking for a pony.    
  4. I'm riding that pony.

Faith.

The African impala can jump to a height of more than 10 feet and cover a distance of more than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a three-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us. Do you give faith a chance to take root in your life? Can you let go of the flimsy enclosures that bind us?

  1. Life's a zoo. My jumping days are over.    
  2. I'd like to leave but they treat me pretty well here.    
  3. I'm straddling the fence.    
  4. I left the zoo a long time ago.

Will to make a difference.

There's a beautiful story of a man walking along the beach after an especially high tide had washed a number of starfish up on shore. Up ahead, he notices a small boy, picking up a starfish and throwing it back in the ocean. Incredulous, the old man catches up to the boy and says, "Son, I applaud your kindness, but your task is impossible. There are literally thousands of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly make a difference." The boy looks at the old man, bends over, picks up a starfish and says, "To this one, I just did." And proceeds to throw it back in the ocean. Like that boy, do you feel called to make a difference? Against sometimes impossible obstacles?

  1. Starfish are dumb, spineless organisms. That's why they washed up on the beach.    
  2. That's a great story.    
  3. I toss a few back in when I have the time.    
  4. I am that boy.

Focus.

When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bulls-eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim - improve yourself. Do you have the ability to tune out all of the daily distractions and concentrate on achieving your objectives?

  1. I never liked archery.    
  2. The target moved.    
  3. I keep missing the target.    
  4. Bulls-eye!

Action.

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you had better be running. When you wake up, do you hit the ground running? Dreams, intentions, plans and objectives all sound good, but do you actually walk your talk?

  1. I don't even talk about it.    
  2. I talk a good game but when push comes to shove, I keep talking.    
  3. I take action most of the time, but I want to do more - acting not talking.    
  4. I act, therefore I am.

Discipline.

Develop and stick to an intense routine. Remember that if you're not disciplined, someone, somewhere is and when the two of you meet, given roughly equal ability -- and sometimes given unequal ability -- they will win. As Lao-tzu put it, "Mastery of others is strength; mastery of yourself is true power." Be powerful.

  1. I'm the 90-pound weakling pictured in those health magazines    
  2. I read those health magazines.    
  3. I'm working out.    
  4. Arnold better watch out.

Scoring: Give yourself one point for each time you checked the first answer. Two points for the second answer. Three points for the third. And four points for the final answer. Add 'em up!


21-42 points = You've got your work cut out for you.

42-63 points = You're on the right track.

More than 63 points = Keep up the good work!


Now go back and target each category where you rated yourself a "2" or less and develop an action plan to improve those areas.

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