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I remember running my 14th Marathon in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I finished, but it was one of my worst experiences running.

There was nothing out of the ordinary that happened that day, and honestly, I cannot blame too many things on the race. 

I thought about quitting a few times. Even though I had run more than a dozen marathons, I got lazy and did not respect the distance.   I did not correctly plan, was not strategic, nor intentional, and I did not consider what I had learned from previous experiences

I made several mental and physical errors.  Looking back at my race performance from that day, I am able to see several things I could have done better.   

The exciting thing about not accomplishing a goal is that there is opportunity for debrief and reflection on what went well, and what could be improved.  The tough part comes when you have to eliminate the excuses, be honest and face yourself in the mirror.

You have to have the courage to be raw and honest asking yourself where you fell short.  In David Goggins book, Can’t Hurt Me,  David talks about how he went from failing at completing a pull-up record he attempted two different times.  After failing at the challenge, he decided to fill out an AAR Report (After Action Review) about his experience.  

In the military after every mission, filling out an AAR Report is required. AAR Reports or live autopsies, are critical to the success of future mission.  

The idea of using an AAR Report intrigued me so much so that I did a bit of research.  I found an article on Linkedin, Why Is US Army’s AAR Such a Powerful Leadership Tool, written by Tom Deierlein, Co-Founder and CEO as well as former West Pointer and Airborne Ranger.  Deierlein emphasized five questions in his article on AAR Reports. 

It is Deierlein’s five questions perfectly frame an evaluation for a  teaching unit, family vacation, business analysis, weekly budget, or performance in a training run or race.  

The Five Questions in an AAR Report:

  1. What was supposed to happen?
  2. What did happen?
  3. What are some improves?
  4. What are some sustains? 
  5. What can be done to improve next time?

 During the first week of August, I decided to sit down and examine a few of the races that stand out in my career.

I decided that I could be even more specific about how to improve by labeling specific areas with, “M” for mental, and “P” for physical. 

After I looked at past failures and successes with my sport, I took a look at my professional career as a teacher. As a 17th year teacher, it would be hard to remember each year, so I decided to focus on the most recent one. This coming year, I plan to use AAR Reports weekly to get a good sense of where I am at as a teacher and adviser.  I love the idea of using them at the end of the week with students. I think this format of evaluating a project would be perfect for any of the activities that our student leaders tackle in the areas of journalism and student council. It is simple, objective, requires honesty and allows for growth.  

Self evaluation is like putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Or, looking for clues to solve a mystery.  Each performance is packed with several clues about what could be kept or changed for future experiences.

As Goggins says, “You can’t prepare for all of the unknown factors.  But, if you have better pre-game focus, you will likely only have to deal with one or two rather than ten.”  I am finding that when I do sit down and respect (plan, be strategic, be intentional, and consider what I have learned from previous experiences) the distance, job, vacation, budget, or whatever it is that I am dealing with will have a better chance of success.  

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