Have I taken out the gold yet?

Success. Achievement. Results.

These mean different things to different people, that’s a given. What I have recently realised is that these may also change depending on the challenge, task, goal, path and nature, of what outcome is sought in each stage of our lives and careers.

Above is a picture of my old hand guards I used for the uneven bars as a gymnast. They’re a visible result of my hard work, commitment, pain, blood, sweat and tears dedicated to my sport. My beloved hand guards. After 10 years they’re still good for something. I pulled them out of my old gym bag the other day, from a cloud of chalk that still existed. I sat looking at them strewn on the floor. What did they mean to me now? Those hand guards prompt thought from time to time but more to the point, in this instance, they’ve helped me arrive at a realisation.

Recently I’ve slowed life down a bit to consider how I’ve approached my new career. In one word, I’d say, aggressively. Leading up to this point, I’ve often wondered, so what’s all this for again? At times I’ve thought, what are my results? Am I getting anywhere? What’s it all worth?

Success, achievements and hard work look significantly different now from what they were 10 years ago. The difference between experiencing success in gymnastics and successfully launching (and managing) my career is: –

  1. immediacy of results
  2. structure, and
  3. war wounds.

In gymnastics, my successes were measured by staying on the beam, ‘hitting’ all my skills in a bar routine, landing on my feet on vault, how high my scores were, whether I got on the podium. Competition season was every year. There were different levels of competition – local, state, national and international, and a judging code. So here I see the structure, a well-defined path my results would be measured against.

A career, a defined one, a distinct path, is perhaps difficult to firstly identify and understand, then even more so to achieve one’s desired outcomes. What is a successful career , at least these days, is not as well defined than a competition season. Nor is a successful one attainable in just a few years or by putting in some consistent, hard yakka.

Okay, so my results during gymnastics may not have been so immediate. I trained for years to achieve podium finishes, titles and a reputation. But my point is, I’d compete four rotations between apparatus’, about two hours worth of anticipation, nerves, stress, things going wrong, then I found out my results. I was either on the podium or I wasn’t. Titles and status were clear. And simple. This is not the case when it comes to one’s career.

War wounds back then were constant injuries, trips to the physio and massage therapist, never-ending pain, bruises in places you’d think you shouldn’t, blisters, tears….you get the picture. And worn out hand guards!

What do the possible war wounds look like now? Burnout, low motivation, little sense of achievement, a love affair with a Mac, feeling lost.

What’s common between the two careers? I can think of three things – self-doubt, frustration and rejection.

But the war wounds were more physical, you could SEE them. So there’s the difference. When I’m tired and worn out, it’s mentally and emotionally, and yet I find myself thinking ‘Alisa, get your act together! You’re fine, there’s nothing wrong with you!’

Nowadays, in career and life, I’m on my own. No one can define a path for me. No one can define success or measure my achievements other than myself. Success is based on the desired outcomes I set for myself.

No matter how much effort I put into my career, not so much blood and sweat, but perhaps some tears, hard work and commitment to study, professional development, planning and involvement in the profession, if I don’t identify successes along the way, I could very well wind up feeling lost and frustrated because I won’t be realising the rewards, benefits and results immediately after my input of effort. If I keep pushing myself further and take on too much for my own good, I could wind up losing my ability to see the end goal.

My problem, I now realise, is I hadn’t yet identified what an achievement would look like, what would mean to me and the objectives I had set.

So how do I apply my old training habits to my career? When is it competition season?

Well, just like Rome, a career isn’t built in a day. And there’s no such thing as competition season. There’s only one competition, and it’s defined by the individual. The meaning of success may evolve over time. I know mine will. Success, to me, will be an achievement of a state of being; the kind of life I’d like. So how will I know I’ve reached it? Answer: milestones. Which milestones will you choose to be your “podium finishes”?

To train hard and train consistently, will involve setting benchmarks for myself. Okay, so I had to achieve eight successful (no falling off) beam routines in a training session.

  1. When will be my ‘career’ training sessions? Perhaps the time I spend on PD activities?
  2. What will be my benchmarks to achieve each training session?

Experiences between then and now have seen my lessons be applied to how I define success, achievement, results, and distinguishing between each of them. I believe it’s important to understand how each of these concepts contribute to the very life you’ve set out to lead.

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