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Know Thyself—Changing Your Direction Starts With Knowing Your Current Location

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus

In our last blog, we took a stab at discussing the action of challenging your habits and daily routines to better understand why you do what you do. In other words, we tried to pin down and examine whether you are living by design or by default.

As we welcome and enter 2021, many of us are looking at new ways to change the direction we have been traveling in order to see different results from last year. If this is something you can relate to, know this—the most important thing you can do is to know yourself.

This is not a statement we make lightly. It is something we have seen to be true over the last several years in our personal lives, in business, and especially when working with individuals and organizations spanning the country. It makes sense, does it not? What good is it to make a goal or a plan to get to the desired destination if you do not have a good idea of where you are currently at?

It is so important to start from where you are—and unfortunately, many of us do not know our own precise locations.

It was Aristotle who said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Pretty smart guy, right?

Sadly, many of us do not have a solid understanding of who we are or where we are at.

According to a study by the job placement service Avenica, about 75% of college graduates who were unemployed at the time of the study had a difficult time finding a job because they did not understand what positions fit them best in their chosen field of study. These graduates had achieved a level of education and some wisdom, but because they had not achieved a level of self-discovery, they were struggling to connect where they fit in.

Goals, Resolutions, & The Four Pillars

By the time you read this blog, most of the New Year’s Resolutions (especially dealing with fitness) have already failed.

USA Today reports, “Strava, a social network for athletes that tracks runs and bike rides, looked at more than 108 million entries in the U.S. and found that January 17th is when Americans are most likely to bail out of fitness resolutions.”

Another study found that about 40% of people made it to the six-month mark.

Mark Murphy stated in Forbes that, “One of my studies, called Are SMART Goals Dumb?, discovered that only 15% of employees truly believe that their goals are going to help them reach these kinds of great accomplishments.”

Yet, each year, millions of employees will start off the New Year with a list of goals that were put on their year-end performance reviews. Now, as you read this, tens of millions of Americans set and have already abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions. Some people will even set a single word to act as the theme of their entire year, and then go on to do many things that directly oppose the word they decided on.

Why does this happen?

Personally, we would contend that most people do not really know who they are and how they are wired—achieving goals without this knowledge makes success even more difficult.

Many of us have not taken the time—or put in the work—needed to learn about ourselves, get to know ourselves, and understand what skills and talents we possess.

For a moment, let us pretend that you are building a house (or an office building, whatever floats your metaphorical boat). No matter what you are building, the contractor, the architect, and the engineer are all going to tell you the same thing—it all starts with the foundation.

If the foundation is solid, square, and level, then the rest of the building process will be a breeze (most likely, anyway). However, if you start with a poor or unknown foundation, the rest of the process will struggle as result.

Our experience and research has shown us that there are four basic areas that affect and influence your personal foundation. We like to think of them this way:

  • Values—the things that are most important to you

  • Interests—the things you enjoy doing the most

  • Aptitude—the things and activities that you are good at, whether you are naturally gifted or have developed these skills

  • Personality—your traits, needs, attitudes, and motivations

These 4 pillars will form the basis of your foundation. It is important to know what type of foundation you are building on; when you do, the construction job becomes much more straightforward.

And truthfully, that is pretty much exactly what goals and resolutions are, anyway, right—construction projects? In a way, you are building yourself up, remodeling, and making changes on your personal foundation. It makes sense that you would need to understand that foundation first, right?

In the book Insight, by Tasha Eurich, a line states, “There is strong scientific evidence that people who know themselves and how others see them are happier. They make smarter decisions. They have better personal and professional relationships.”

To put it another way, Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, said, “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.”

Who among us would not want to be happier, smarter, and wiser?

It is our hope that anyone who is taking the time to read these words would want to improve their personal and professional relationships.

So, where do you start? How exactly do you determine your foundation?

First, take an assessment of yourself.

Do exactly what you would do as a business with an inventory of assets or how an athlete would assess their speed, strength, and endurance.

Did you notice how we did not tell you to test yourself? That was intentional.

We avoid thinking of self-evaluations this way because tests usually have pass or fail connotations—and that does not really apply to your foundational traits. Why? Because they do not pass or fail anything—they just are what they are. Once you know them well enough, you can better determine if you are applying them to achieve the outcomes you desire. Or you can determine if you need additional skills to add to your foundation before you start shoring it up.

We usually find it almost comical—if not for the fact that it is relatively sad—when a hiring manager or leader informs us with excitement or accomplishment with a statement like “I am so excited—we just made an offer to a perfect candidate for the open Director of Manufacturing position!” and then shortly after (probably three-to-six months after) they tell us something like, “We just let our Director of Manufacturing go—he was just not the right fit for what we needed!”

Clearly, either the company did not know what they were looking for, or the candidate did not know what type of foundation he had—that is why it ended up being a poor fit.

What if you had a series of bad dates, broken relationships, and confusing conversations with those you care for—do you think you would ever stop to think about why? Often, we are trying to put the wrong building with the wrong foundation. We are setting goals that will never be achieved because we do not know which building techniques we need to utilize to make them happen.

Who Am I?—No, Really

Performing a self-evaluation to better get to know who you are, why you do what you do, and how you can direct your sails in a more successful way is crucial to development. And truthfully, it can be a tough challenge. So, where exactly do you start?

By getting to know yourself.

Start by asking yourself questions—answer them as thoroughly and honestly as you can. Not sure where to start? We suggest beginning with questions like these:

  • Am I introverted or extroverted?

  • Am I an internal processor or an external processor?

  • Am I mostly a visual or auditory or kinesthetic learner?

  • Am I secure, anxious, avoidant, or fearful in my attachment style when building relationships?

  • Am I relationship- or results-oriented?

  • Am I wired to make decisions based on dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, or estrogen?

  • Am I more likely to do my best work when on a team or as an individual?

  • Am I someone who leans optimistic or is naturally pessimistic?

Our New Year’s Gift to You—Finding Progress, Understanding Your Foundation, and Getting to Know Yourself

We are enormously invested in getting to know ourselves—and further, we are enormously invested in helping other people get to know themselves, too. That is where our New Year’s gift comes in.

We have listed some of the most used assessments and the links below to help you kickstart your assessment process—all in one place!

Most of the assessments and tools are free for your use—something we believe makes them a great starting point for working on identifying who you are, how you communicate, why you react the way you do, and beyond. By no means is this list exhaustive, but we do think it will give you a very good idea of some of your basic, foundational makeup.

Take the assessments, log your results, and ask those who know you best if the results you are getting are a match to who they think you are.

Be careful not to let one or two assessments drive your entire evaluation—none of us can establish who we are just based on a single evaluation. It is important to realize that this is going to be a blend of many results that will give you a better idea of who you are.

Once you know yourself better, you will be so much more prepared to set goals, have healthier relationships, and thrive in 2021.

Our advice? Do not think of this as any old task. Relish this exploratory time, enjoy discovering who you are, and take great joy in determining how you are wired.

If you have questions about your results or how to continue evaluating yourself - we always welcome emails—send us a message at

Now, onto that 2021 evaluation list:

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