We can define personal effectiveness as the ability of an individual to pursue and achieve their goals, using all the appropriate internal and external resources. It is an act of centering and focusing which allows each of us, from our core, to exert control over all the forces in the field and reach our goals.
How do we define personal effectiveness over the past, present and future? Where can we place it temporally?
Personal effectiveness requires a strong push for personal improvement. To improve ourselves we must embrace change and expose ourselves to new, unusual and unexpected situations. We do not change if we just stick to our tried-and-tested, routine ways.
Change can be desired and sought, or sometimes it can just materialise or even be imposed on us. In the first case, we are the ones to drive it, by controlling different variables to achieve the expected results. But other change may be unexpected and unwanted, for example when a company decides to change a particular role and its responsibilities and content, in order to be more responsive to the business context. The person who hold that role must then align themselves with the new role expectations and develop their skills and abilities.
So what is the relationship between personal effectiveness and the past? Actually, there isn’t one. The past is gone, it is behind us. We should be effective without things that happened in the past colouring the present. Whatever challenges and changes we face, we should close the door on the past, because what matters is how we act now. Focusing on personal effectiveness today will help us achieve our goals tomorrow.
In the present, an essential ingredient of personal effectiveness is awareness – being aware of oneself in the here and now. Psychosynthesis, the branch of psychology founded by the psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli, talks about activating the internal observer, that is the ego’s ability to be conscious of everything that moves inside and outside of us. Inside of me because I observe the continuous flow of thoughts, emotions, sensations, reflections that populate our internal world. But it is also the ability to observe oneself while we act in the world and to grasp what behaviors and actions we put in the field, reflecting on everything we observe. Without awareness we do not move forwards, we do not build knowledge of ourselves and we are destined for a state of deadlock, inertia and ignorance.
Another essential ingredient of personal effectiveness is responsibility. The word derives from the Latin respondere, meaning to give answers. In light of the awareness that I have acquired and continue to acquire, responsibility is the ability to give answers to what I have understood and made mine. Responsibility underpins the power that I gain when I take actions concerning personal improvement. Taking responsibility means accepting “It depends on me!”.
So what should we feel responsible for? It is not enough to say “I am responsible for my personal improvement” because real improvement cannot happen without clear objectives. So we should instead ask ourselves “Where do I want to go?”, “What do I want to achieve?” Goal setting is another essential ingredient of personal effectiveness because setting a goal focuses our energy, skills and competencies towards the desired result. Defining objectives becomes the bridge between present and future: “I’ll fix this now, so that I can reach my result tomorrow”.
In which future do our plans come to life? It depends on the goal that we have set. For example, if I start my own professional growth project, I will probably reach my goal in the medium term (1-3 years). But it also depends on me, because once I have defined a temporal goal, I return to the present to take action, and I deploy activities, behaviors and thoughts that will help me achieve my goal. Of course sometimes circumstances and events beyond our control happen, and these slow or hinder our plans and delay the outcome. But we can’t use this as an excuse to avoid action; in most cases, action today supports progress tomorrow.
So finally, how do I act? With enthusiasm and optimism, and above all with the certainty and confidence in my ability to deliver. I act, therefore I am in the present, and I move towards the destination I have chosen so I am constantly looking to the future.