The first 12 years of my professional life were in ministry work.  I served in several leadership positions, including pastor, college instructor, and director of a traveling band and vocal group. This group was fortunate to attract some very gifted talent: a great asset on our national and international tours. As its director, one of my primary responsibilities was to find the talent and to develop it. Our primary platform with this process was to periodically hold open auditions. Without fail, I consistently encountered the unfortunate blinded hearts that did not possess enough self-awareness around their strengths and weaknesses.

We seem to live in a time when it is common to find those with exaggerated opinions of themselves and their abilities. Instead of being comfortable with who they are and thankful for what they have been given, they often want what others have. The danger in this kind of thinking and self deception is that it can draw our attention away from acknowledging and developing the areas in which we are truly gifted. As a result, many are living discouraged and frustrated lives, consistently setting themselves up for failure. The flip side to this thinking is to greatly underestimate our talent and abilities. Both kinds of thinking can be hazardous and counterproductive to our personal development.

How do we avoid this confused misinterpretation of ourselves? We do so by gaining the invaluable gift of self-awareness through the process of self-evaluation. Self-evaluation can be very challenging for us because it requires us to take an honest and realistic look within; that that can feel very threatening. But like Jean Vainer so insight-fully recognized, “It’s when we start to accept our own weakness that true growth begins.”

How It’s Done

Because self-evaluation can appear to be so overwhelming, I want us to look at four key words that will simplify and support us through this eye-opening process.
A. Listen
What are others saying? I’m talking about the people we respect and trust; those who have our best interest at heart and who have nothing to gain. If we listen, what things do we hear repeated? If our hearts are open and we are listening, we generally don’t have to wonder where we are gifted, where we need to grow, or what our strengths and weaknesses are. People will tell us. The real challenge comes with being humble enough to hear.

B. Silence
Just saying the word can make some of us feel uncomfortable. Silence can feel uncomfortable because there is a price to pay for this lost spiritual discipline. We have to be alone, turn off the TV, the iPod, the computer, the cell phone, all the busyness of life –and just sit. Sit alone with our thoughts; sit with our conscience instead of outwardly listening to all the other voices, learning and practicing the art of listening to the voice within. I truly believe that the reason many of us inundate our lives with constant activity and busyness is the deep, hidden fear of meeting ourselves face to face in silence.

Mother Teresa expressed, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature –trees, flowers, grass–grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” I would add that we need silence to get in touch with our own souls.

C. Read
We need to expose ourselves to insightful reading materials: literary works that compel us to grow, to learn, and to reflect. Take the time to dive into books on personal growth development, character development, and changing your behavior. Written words can be incredibly powerful, and when given the opportunity, can become a looking glass into our soul. Have you ever read something so impacting, so revealing, that it was as though the author had penned those words specifically for you? You somehow knew it about yourself, but never fully understood it until you read it. It’s powerful when that happens!

D. Journal
There is nothing more frustrating and discouraging than to lose all the rich information and golden insights we’ve gained because of neglecting to write them down. Capture the moment; journal it. As a life coach, I highly encourage all of my clients to get a notebook or journal that is used only to collect this profitable endowment of self-awareness. I have discovered that writing it down is usually just the beginning of the discovery process. The deeper enlightenments take root as we meditate and pray over our newly found revelations.

Make It Fun!

Self-evaluation is a vital and necessary part of personal growth development. We will never reach our full potential without it. We do our selves a great disservice when we approach opportunities for growth as something to avoid or begrudgingly make it through. The key is to make the learning fun and exciting, a process of discovery and continued advancement in this amazing journey of life.