Measurement is important in every facet of life isn’t it? We need to be able to judge progress, ensure things fit, recognise contribution and appreciate or reward success. This is never more important than life itself I would argue, yet how would you measure success in your life? We know how we measure success in sport we may play, the quality of the relationships we might have or our academic progress at school. All important parts of life as we know it but not a reflection of our success in life itself.
I have become increasingly interested in the role that values play in our lives and having reviewed the work of James Clear and Mark Manson, amongst others, think that there is a real opportunity for us to be clearer about what truly drives us and how we use these drivers to measure success. Most conversations about success in life would typically be about salary, car, house size, types of holidays, happiness etc – now while these are all clearly indicators of sorts, they are a bit general to enable each and every one of us to be more precise about how to measure ‘our’ success.
Let’s see what the dictionary describes:
plural noun: values
- the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
- principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.
It is the second definition that interests me. For a while now I have been building in values work to my coaching and team interaction as a way of deepening understanding and strengthening? relationships across teams and for individuals to be clearer about what is really important. I try hard to practise what I preach, and in this case, I am clear about my top 5 values – Love, Freedom, Health, Adventure and Personal Growth. I use these as a compass to help me make decisions, make sense of the way I feel about certain things and help me prioritise what I need to focus on. If you have never done it I would urge you to try and identify your top 5 values, the act of sorting, prioritising and discarding other values is really interesting in its own right and can create some great insights. James Clear has an accessible set of values on his website:
- try identifying two lists in the first instance, those that are important and those that are less so.
- taking the important list, identify the top 10
- then from these 10 identify the top 5
- finally rank these 5 in order of importance, 1 being the most important. (NB Make a note of the top 10 for future reference).
My view is that within your top 10 there will be some small changes over time – I wish I had done this exercise at 25, if I had, I am sure that some of my top 5 may be different to the 5 I have identified now, like anything in life, circumstances and situation will have an impact.
Having clarified your top 5 values the challenge then becomes to evaluate whether your life is being lived in congruence with these values, so for a simplistic example, if health is one of them and you are living a lifestyle that is unhealthy then something is awry. If freedom is important yet you are trapped in a job you don’t enjoy with every minute accounted for then this might be causing you some tension. It is reasonable to expect that some of our values will create a degree of tension with each other, for example my desire for adventure clearly creates some tension with loving my family when I set about climbing a mountain on which people die. Understanding your values gives you a chance to manage these tensions proactively, talking about them, exploring the impact and implications.
But what of taking the next step, using your values as the dashboard for your life? The ‘Strictly’ Judges use their scoring paddles to measure the success of the dance, using their knowledge and experience to be able to define a perfect 10 (well except for Craig) 😊 But do you know what a perfect 10 looks like for your life? I have had a go, I have taken each of my values and tried to describe what good would look like for each, what would success look like and therefore what might I use as a measure.
Love – the quality and impact of my relationships with people I care about, the opportunities to help others grow and develop
Freedom – the number of days I am free to choose what I do, the level of control over how I spend my time
Health – my weight, ability to run a 10k, my mental health, adherence to health habits
Adventure – the number of new places, new experiences, new people
Personal growth – how often I am out of my comfort zone, learning a new skill or capability, new knowledge or insight.
I was shooting with a friend last week and we were reflecting on how life had shifted from when we first met (over 32 years ago); he was sharing his experiences about buying a new multi-million pound turnover business, glamorous trips to Argentina fishing, and a target of retiring in 10 years, all indicators of ‘success’ to varying degrees. I found myself thinking negatively about my slightly lower key business success and lifestyle, invariably making some sort of comparison. In the absence of our own measures we will always default to the societal measures that are accepted and common place. It was only as I sat by the fire later that evening and reflected (with a glass of wine in hand) that they were things I didn’t want and weren’t important for me. I had been fit and active that day, had a wonderful day with my dog sharing a passion for something we both love, learned new things from another gundog handler, been pushed out of my comfort zone and met some new people with new conversations and insights. All in all a successful day, a reminder that we all value different things and that is what we should measure ourselves by, not against the measures of others. If you aren’t clear what you value then maybe now is the time to get a little clearer?
Onwards and upwards!
“The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have done and what we might have been on the one hand, and the thing we have made and the things we have made of ourselves on the other.”
H. G. Wells