How do you define success?
What you might notice about Ash Barty’s definition of success is how much of it is within her control — all of it.
When we define success from an intrinsic (internal) perspective as Ash does, we realise that we’re actually completely in control of it. It can also be pretty damn motivating. What it involves is identifying a personal set of intrinsic motivations, aligning these motivations to a set of core values, and then bringing these values to life through healthy habits. But let’s just double click on the values part of this.
Our values are extensions of ourselves and what define us — they’re fundamental to how we measure success. For example, if we value money (an extrinsic motivation) our definition of success may be earning a high-figure salary. But if we value getting out of our comfort zone to realise our potential (an intrinsic motivation), our definition of success may look significantly different — we may need that high-figure salary for a while, but what happens when we get to that point where we’ve got more than enough?
This change in perspective of understanding how our intrinsic motivations can drive our values can be the difference between running a race that never ends or running our own race that ends when we decide. In Ash Barty’s case, it’s the difference between continually chasing tennis trophies and choosing to start another chapter, outside her comfort zone.
But what can get in the way of us accurately identifying our values? Here are three key considerations:
- Our values can change and become outdated — this can often happen when we’re taught values as a child (from our parents or grandparents) where we have little “lived experience” to help shape our beliefs. Perhaps we grew up believing if we always work hard, we’ll be successful. But in reality, as we gain more lived experience, working hard has led to long hours, stressful days and ultimately spending less time with friends and family or on our health. This in turn competes with other values around family connection and personal wellbeing. Our values can change over time and just like a musical instrument, sometimes they need re-tuning to play the right sound.
- It can be hard to identify our values — it can be hard at times to understand what our true values are — we don’t always like them and sometimes we wish we had other values. This makes us very good at telling ourselves what we wish to be true, rather than what is true. Without understanding the difference between who we think we are and the reality of who we are, we won’t be able to define meaningful success and instead continue to chase a shadow. This is why we love the method of identifying our values based on our intrinsic motivations because it’s inherently creating a set of words that embodies who we really are and not someone else.
- We value things out of our control — the simplest example is chasing all that extrinsic stuff — money, status, accolades. Yes, it can be partially controlled — we may choose to work in a certain field because it pays well — but it can never be fully controlled. The pandemic is an example of why this is true — it was an uncontrollable event that led to many people losing their jobs and the ability to make money, in the same way we can’t control an economic collapse, our workplace cutting staff or industries becoming redundant over time. We should only ever have values we can control, or they will end up ruling us.
Discovering and claiming our values is an exciting but sometimes overwhelming task. There’s plenty of lists, frameworks and theories to help, but it may take a few attempts because there’s no one-size fits all approach… they are our personal values after all.
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