Changing Your Measuring Stick

It’s all about results.

That’s what I’ve always thought. Results. Winning. Success. Statistics. For the longest time, it was all that mattered to me. Consequently, the one and only way I would gauge the current state of my career was based on my most recent results. Had I won the game? Had I scored? Had I achieved better statistics than my competition? As athletes, our sport is a huge part of who we are and how we view ourselves at any given moment. Therefore, my mental state always had a simple formula that could be calculated based on my soccer results. Points and victories were positively correlated with my happiness and personal satisfaction.

Having our personal lives so closely tied to results that have no guaranteed consistency can be dangerous. As my career took off, I began to realize that I don’t always have control over the outcome. Playing professionally and internationally, at times preparation is not enough. Though we train tirelessly, leaving no stone unturned, there are scenarios where the ball doesn’t bounce our way. At some point for every athlete, setbacks and heartbreak are inevitable.

For almost every high-level athlete, the refusal to feel satisfied is a common thread of DNA. That ambition is not something that we should lose; it is something that we should tie ourselves to. But as we encounter setbacks, we must learn to balance our ever-pressing ambition with the understanding of our role in the process.

In professional sports, very rarely do teams go undefeated. Very rarely does someone play perfectly in every game. Athletes encounter injuries, dry spells, obstacles of every shape and size. This year alone, I have personally struggled with what I call “volatile happiness.” The highs are so high and the lows are dark. Between injuries, inconsistent performance, and a little bit of immaturity, I found myself basing my happiness and satisfaction solely on results. Slowly but surely, I’ve learned to change my measuring stick of success. I’ve learned to define success as the ability to check off every box that is within my control. On the field, those boxes include focus, attitude, and effort. Off the field, those boxes include treatment, nutrition, recovery, and preparedness. I’ve learned to make a plan for what I need to improve upon and execute that plan with precision.

As I’ve made the transition into this mindset, my life outside of sports is so much more enjoyable and fulfilling. Changing my perception of success was the only way for me to navigate through my professional career and remain a happy, healthy individual. I’m starting to see that the journey is just as, if not more than, important than the end result. Once you find yourself at a point where your satisfaction is derived from your ultimate preparedness to perform, your performance itself should improve in quality. There is so much to be gained from the knowledge and belief that you did everything in your power to succeed. Whether or not the outcome goes your way, there is fulfillment to be found in the process. Be proud of the grit you demonstrated to accomplish your goal, knowing full-well that the results are not all that matter.

Work hard. Persevere. Find happiness. Change your measuring stick.