What we consider an achievement and how we define success affects us at every level. It affects confidence, self-esteem and psychological well-being. It affects motivation and how satisfied we feel with life. It influences the choices we make and the pressure we put ourselves under. Our own definitions, therefore, mould who we become.
For some, turning up at their first Hapkido class is a massive achievement. Fears of who will be there, not knowing what they might be asked to do, or thoughts about fitness and flexibility can be concerning – so simply showing up is a win. For another, achievement might be about being able to throw a heavier student, successfully kicking a pad, or jumping to a higher level. Someone else might consider it an achievement to attend two classes each week given their work commitments. Another person might feel that success is about meeting an ideal representation of what a black, red or white belt is. The list is endless and varies from person to person.
As we develop within Hapkido, we start to ask ourselves questions that can uncover some of our current attitudes toward success.
- Am I tired tonight, because ‘I’m getting old’? When is old anyway?
- Must I ‘win’ to feel I have achieved anything?
- Am I content with just taking part?
- Has what I wanted to achieve changed over the years?
- Who do I think is successful at Hapkido, at work, at life and why? What characteristics do they display that I value?
- Do I believe that integrity, resilience and strong interpersonal skills are essential qualities in a senior belt, but judge myself purely on my ability to do Kick Block skill number 8?
- Do I value the willingness to grow and develop but think failure is unacceptable?
- Will I fail if I don’t convert this client, or publish this paper?
Development within Hapkido demands that we start to question our assumptions and definitions; that we explore our own subtle biases, and the biases of others. Once we understand our own minds, we are then able to question how we make our decisions, and challenge our limiting beliefs. We’re then also able to determine whether how we currently define success is aligned with our own core values and beneficial to our progression both in and out of the dojang; it provides us with the possibility of actually evolving our own sense of what success is.
Last year I was awarded my 5th degree black belt (Junior Master Level); I completed a 3 year MSc in Strength & Conditioning; and I co-founded a national sports charity. From the outside one could say that I had been quite successful. But I never actually felt successful, that is…. until I started to work on this blog, and I became more aware of the beliefs that shape how I see success.
I believe that we are architects of our own destiny. I value honesty and creativity. I enjoy being playful and am motivated by learning. I strive for a deeper understanding of life, of others…and most importantly of myself. I want to be able to fully express my potential and help others to do the same. I don’t think it’s possible to know ‘the answer’, but I enjoy peeling away the onion layers one bit at a time.
I wonder whether being so motivated by learning and by being able to fully express myself… to some extent… sometimes inhibits me from feeling successful? Particularly if I also hold a construct that defines success as having arrived somewhere, having it all figured out, or having some sort of fixed and completed understanding/knowledge.
Perhaps my inability to really savour the momentous achievements of last year is less about what was or wasn’t accomplished, but more about a self-imposed unattainable definition of success. Simply recognising this has given me a root to recognising and valuing my own successes. If success became about maintaining a state of learning and growth, about pushing me beyond my comfort zone and about being able to teach Hapkido better this year than the previous, then my achievements would feel successful. By widening my definition of success, I can not only maintain my motivation to learn, but also start to allow myself to value the landmarks along the journey.
How do you rate your own achievements? Is that congruent with what you value? Do your behaviour and choices really align with what matters to you at a deep level? Does your definition of personal success help or hinder your own well-being?
Achieving the next colour belt can be a wonderful marker to your Hapkido progress, but individually reflecting on these questions puts success and achievement under the microscope. It gives us chance to redefine what matters to us, and allows us to reflect more deeply on the choices we make and how we choose to experience life along the way.