Personal Inventory

A personal inventory is invaluable when thinking about building basic life skills. No matter how good we are, we all know there are areas that could use improvement. A personal inventory which could also be called a self-assessment can help identify needed skills.

In wanting to develop or strengthen skills, your first inclination might be to list all the things you can't do, or do poorly. Don't do it! Most of us are far too quick to list our weaknesses, but hesitant to list our strengths. (Some might consider it bragging.) The truth is, focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses encourages a positive approach to skill-building.

To state an often overlooked success secret: We have to be our biggest cheerleader. Therefore, anything we do to build healthy self-esteem will also help build self-confidence and motivation. For this reason a personal inventory can also be called a strengths assessment.

There are many in-depth scientific strengths assessments available. It is up to you to decide if a simple personal inventory, such as the one that follows, is all you need. Or if it is only a first step in fully exploring your strengths and weaknesses.

Six Simple Steps to Creating a Basic Personal Inventory:

1. On a piece of paper or in a notebook, create two columns with the headings: Positive (Strengths) and Negative (Weaknesses)

(A notebook is better because it can easily become an ongoing personal inventory that could be updated periodically. Progress could be recorded, which would provide additional motivation. And being able to list current skills would come in handy when applying for a new job, requesting a promotion and during job evaluations.)

2. Under the appropriate column, list all the adjectives you would use to describe yourself. Remember to start with positive adjectives. In fact, for every negative adjective, try to add a positive one.

Although less important because they may result from a distorted image / perception, also list the adjectives you believe others would use to describe you. Again, start with positive adjectives.

3. Think about the person you ultimately want to become. What additional adjectives would you use to describe that person? Add them to the list. It might also be helpful to think about people you admire. How would you describe them? Add those adjectives to the list.

4. Look at the adjectives under the Negative (Weaknesses) column. Consider each one individually. Do you believe these are real barriers to personal growth that need to be addressed separately? If so, list them in a third column with the heading: Barriers, and cross them off the Negative (Weaknesses) list. If there are other current barriers to your success, add them to this list.

5. Consider the remaining adjectives in the Negative (Weaknesses) and think of an antonym (or opposite) for each one. Bossy could become cooperative, impulsive could become thoughtful, aggressive could become assertive, hurtful could become helpful, and so on. Cross off each weakness and replace it with a strength.

By focusing on building the strength, over time the weakness will be eliminated or minimized.

6. Circle five adjectives - at this point they should all be positive (strengths) - that you consider to be most important to increasing future success at home and at work.

Congratulations! You have now identified five personal strengths that are important to you personally and that you feel are worth developing. You have also identified possible barriers to your success that need to be addressed.

With this information, you have taken another step towards personal empowerment and can now create a truly personal plan for building success.

This personal inventory can also be used in the future to identify additional skills you want to strengthen or acquire. It could also be re-created occasionally to see if changes should be made to the current plan for success.