It’s that time of year at my company when all good corporate employees must evaluate their own performance as a precursor to the annual performance review given to us all by our various supervisors. I dread this time of year. Every year. I procrastinate. I allow myself to get distracted. I help everyone else with whatever else needs doing — anything to avoid sitting down and honestly evaluating the good, the bad and the everything in between. And this year was no exception. Knowing it was coming, knowing it was coming two months in advance, didn’t prevent it from still being an adrenaline-deadline-driven project again this year.

I’m pretty sure that I have this reaction because one of the most difficult things for me — and many, many others — to do, is to honestly look at ourselves with the witness mind, versus our everyday, frenetic monkey minds. In order to step back and look at ourselves in that evaluating way, we need to get our own egos out of the way. I don’t know about you, but my ego has different personas. Sometimes it shows up with trendy clothes and newly done nails ready for happy girl talk, but sometimes it shows up wearing leather and brass knuckles — and it really doesn’t like being pushed aside.

So, here I am, with a brass-knuckle-wielding ego facing the daunting Performance Review Assessment Form. This form is two years “new” and neither I, nor my ego, has really made friends yet. What to do?

I opted to just start listing accomplishments and “opportunities for improvement.” And then, as the list began to unfold, it struck me (hard). With utter ease I came up with the list of “needs improvement”, while the “accomplishments” list remained almost empty. *Pow* Brass knuckles to the jaw. Judge myself much?

With that realization, I didn’t instantly have any clarity. In fact, quite the opposite. My mind took off at lightening speed, dropping excuses while it ran. Everything I had to do today, over the weekend, thoughts on what I did yesterday, or the day before that all rushed to the surface. My ego, my monkey mind was so afraid of stopping and seeing ME with an equanimous view, it just kept pumping thoughts out as fast as it could.

The only thing I can ever do when my monkey mind starts swinging from thought tree to thought tree (or throwing self-inflicted punches) is to take a deep breath. Then another. And follow that up with several more deep breaths until things slow down. And then keep breathing as I attempt to once again look at whatever set me off. And this time, it was honest self-evaluation … Specifically looking at the good and positive contributions I make every day. I was stunned at how difficult a task I found this. I went through emails (I highly suggest you save any positive words about projects, deeds, etc anyone sends you — you may need to read them later when you need reminding about how truly fantastic you are), I went through project folders to trigger memory, and then knowing I just needed to stop thinking so much and just do it, I did it.

The result? The staggering realization that I contributed to a lot of positive changes during a year that was quite challenging from a company and project-resources point of view. And the “Accomplishments” list turned out significantly longer than my “Opportunities for Improvement” list. Imagine that. AND the “Opportunities for Improvement” list became something truly useful — a list of skills and personal development focuses that can be approached from a place of compassion, rather than one of harsh judgement.

Yoga helps us calm the screaming monkey in our brains. All the techniques we learn on the mat are truly techniques we NEED in our daily lives. Simple, conscious breathing does more for stress-management then the beer or pink-tinted cocktail we reach for on the weekend, tasty though they may be. This most recent exercise of bringing a yogic mind and some deep breaths to a perceived arduous task reminded me of my connections. There are many, many friends, family and acquaintances who hold me in great esteem and levels of love. If I breathe, if I acknowledge that Prana connects us all with each and every breathe, and believe that those who respect, love, admire me are being truthful, then perhaps the next time I sit down to self-evaluate, I will more easily be able to reach for the equanimous viewpoint — the view that I’m a whole, loving, intelligent, and fully complete individual and not waste quite so much time with my mind swinging from tree to tree.

*Taking a deep breath and filling up with Prana and hope.*

Shanti, Shanti, Namaste

4 Responses to “Self-evaluation meets the brass-knuckle wielding Monkey Mind”

  • Bryna says:

    Namaskaram! This blog was a great idea! It’s very brave of you to put the internal struggle out there for the world to see.

    I read in one of my dozens of yoga books a passage which struck me deeply. The reactionary nature of the emotions and the ego (and I’m paraphrasing here) are rooted in the past. When we first encountered a situation/person/thing, we experienced a certain kind of feeling and reaction. Perhaps it was pleasant, perhaps not (as in the case of the dreaded self-evaluation form). Our reactions leave a blueprint of sorts in our minds and bodies, so that the next time we encounter a similar situation/person/thing, we anticipate the way it will make us feel, and cultivate a story around it before our new experience even begins.

    Therefore, in order to avoid getting stuck in the emotional/egoic reactions that torment us, we have to approach every new person, situation, and circumstance as if we’ve never been there at all. This is my new definition of “beginner’s mind!”

    Keep writing, and keep breathing! I look forward to reading more! Namaste!

  • Hiking_Yogini says:

    Bryna, thanks for the comment! I’ve come across similar evaluations of the reactionary nature. In fact, just last night I came across a passage from the Buddha that states, “What you are is what you have been, what you will be is what you do now.” Beginner’s mind … so easy to say, so much practice to accomplish! :))

    Shanti, Shanti, Namaste!

  • Staci says:

    Wow, amɑzing weblog format! How long have you ever been running a blog for?

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  • Deb Goeschel says:

    Thank you. I started the blog a number of years ago, took a few years off, and just re-started this year. Glad you enjoyed it.

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