The Easy Secret to Making Yourself Better at Anything
September is Professional Development Month at The Muse! Check in all month for ways to boost your skills, get ahead at work, and be the best professional you can possibly be.
I’m a big believer in self-reflection, and I’m all about finding ways to make things (including myself!) better whenever possible. The reality is, none of us are perfect. Whether it’s for work or personal development, there’s always opportunity for growth. And the question for most people isn’t if they can do something to improve, but how.
Both research and trial and error suggest that one of the best ways to make something more effective is to measure it. So, why not apply this to your own life? A simple tactic that I’ve recently adopted is creating my own personal feedback system.
How it Works
- At the end of the day, week, meeting, event, you-name-it, rate how you think it went on a scale of one to 10.
- If it wasn’t a 10, ask yourself: “What would have made it a 10?”
Putting a number on an intangible experience suddenly makes what was amazing or not so amazing about it a lot more clear. When you acknowledge that things didn’t go perfectly, you accept the fact that there’s room for improvement, and more importantly, what that improvement might look like. It’s an insanely easy way to gain clarity, and the approach shines a bright light on exactly what you can do differently next time.
Think back to your last team discussion. If you’d score your performance an eight out of 10, what could have made it a 10? Talking a tiny bit less and listening more to the great ideas being shared? Or maybe not being afraid to speak up when you had a really great idea? Keep that in mind next time.
If you’re new at sales, perhaps your most recent pitch was a six. So what would a solid 10 look like? Starting off a little less aggressively in the beginning and instead asking more questions to get a better sense of your customer’s needs? You can bet that’ll happen in your next pitch.
Perhaps you met a few interesting people at that networking event last week—good but not great, a seven. What would have made your time more worthwhile? Making your way around the room more instead of spending so much time with that one person you already knew? There you go.
This doesn’t only apply to professional improvement—take a moment to zoom out and think back to the last year. Taken as a whole, how does it stack up, and how could it have been better? A five or an eight, you’ll know what made it so. Whether it’s spending more time with family or setting personal goals earlier, adjusting your priorities for the year ahead is so much easier.
On the flip side, if any experience did deserve a perfect 10 (be honest!), then you’ve got all the more reason to pat yourself on the back. You did your best, and it couldn’t have gone any better—congratulations!
Consistently ranking my own performance on this scale has been the most effective and powerful way I’ve found to fine-tune any areas of improvement. Best of all, rating yourself and facing imperfections is much less intimidating than having someone else (read: your boss) do it for you. As long as you know what getting better looks like and make an active effort towards it, you’ll be golden.
Photo of personal growth courtesy of Shutterstock.
About The Author
Before joining The Muse, Sarah worked in social business innovation for Virgin Unite in London, strategy and innovation at Market Gravity, sustainability research in the Dominican Republic, and business development for a NYC startup. Wrapping up her time at Columbia University, she’s headed to McKinsey & Company after graduation. Say hi on Twitter @sarahlichang.