I remember being at a wedding in my mid 20s. At the time, I was still playing professionally, living 8 months of the year abroad and getting paid to play a game I would gladly play for free. It was in many ways a dream life. It was challenging in many other ways that I won’t go into here but it was simple in one distinct way; I knew every single day if I had won or lost.
At this wedding, I was talking to a former collegiate and professional basketball player I knew, 8 months pregnant with her 3rd child. She said the hardest thing about the real world was not knowing what success really was. I understood what she meant, one of my favorite things about sports was the sometimes instant gratification of hard work or at least the instant feedback of what was working and what wasn’t.
And I see this SO much with myself and clients. When we don’t see results, and we aren’t even sure what results we are looking for, things can get confusing. After all, there isn’t a scoreboard except in our heads and even then, what constitutes scoring anyway? We can so easily go through life, one day bleeding into the next, unsure as to whether what we are doing day to day is getting us closer to our goals.
Taking the time to define ‘winning and losing’ then can be one of the most important exercises we do. What is winning to us?:
Of course, this sounds simple, like we should all inherently know what success means or that we’ll know when we get ‘there’. But success outside of sports is so much more subjective and we often don’t take the time to figure out our subjective opinion on it. Instead we let others, society, subconscious influences shape our feelings about how our life is going or what we should want.
If I’m working with an athlete or a non-athlete, I always start the same way by asking and having them journal on the question: ‘What do you want?’
From here we get to the brass tax of what is actually important to them in their life. What’s the destination? What does ‘winning’ look like to them?
This is a powerful exercise because too often we think ‘working hard’ is going to get us what we want but working hard doesn’t mean much if we are peddling in place, with no destination in mind. Or, even worse we arrive where we THINK we wanted to go- a bigger house, more money, etc.- and realize that we still don't feel like a winner. Wah wah wah.
It’s also really hard from a motivation standpoint when you don’t have a measuring stick. Think of your day yesterday. Did you ‘win’ at life? If so, how do you know? If not, how do you know and what will you change today or tomorrow?
Based on my ‘what do I want’ exercise, I have 4 pillars that I measure myself against. Some have to do with my personal life and how I want to show up as a mom and wife, others have to do with myself and how I want to take care of myself, another is how much money I want to make, and finally I look at my contribution to the world.
I go back to these pillars regularly as they need definitions and analysis constantly. And with the exception of the money pillar, they still aren’t quite as simple as winning and losing a game. But it helps tremendously to have a measuring stick on what success looks like for me in my life. Without it, I can easily go through the motions, unsure at how I’m doing, where I am headed, and if all this work is adding up to a ‘W’ in life (and if not what can I work to improve?)
Let's do this!
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