What Defines Your Value? Better Ways To Measure Success

A white woman holds a bouquet of big pink flowers over her shoulder, covering her face.

How do you measure your value?

Whenever I find myself fretting over a lengthy to-do list or cramming my schedule with tasks and goals, I can’t help but think of this T.S. Eliot poem and his line about measuring your life in coffeespoons.  

As someone who has measured their life in test scores and grades and, yes, even in coffee spoons, that particular line from Eliot’s poem deeply resonates. It reminds me to not always succumb to routine and predictability. And to reconsider how we measure our lives and self-worth.

But in this modern, hustle culture world, it seems that our self-worth and success is always defined by our achievements and productivity. How many pieces we wrote in a year. How many deals we closed. How much money we brought in. But it’s unsustainable and unhealthy to identify with our external achievements alone. After all, we’re human beings, not productivity machines.

So how can we measure our self-worth and success if it isn’t tied to our output? 

One exercise you can do to help you find clarity in this area is the year-end review. Look back on the moments and experiences that shaped your year.

What events made you feel accomplished? What moments brought you joy? Which people motivated and inspired you? You might even notice that your happiest moments are rarely the ones concerning your career or productivity. Maybe it’s an afternoon playing board games with friends or going hiking with a loved one or traveling to your favorite destination or just curling up on the couch and reading a good book. Whatever brings you joy, cultivate more of that in your life. 

Another tool you can use is the Ink+Volt Reflection Pad to help you assess what you’re feeling at the moment, and gain more clarity on what you’re seeking right now.

Below, we’ve listed some other ways that can help you define your self-worth and give you a sense of accomplishment without it being tethered to productivity and the typical definition of success.

Measure your life with gratitude 

Instead of looking for external achievements to measure your self-worth or success, try counting your blessings instead. 

When we focus on productivity, we get into the mindset of always looking out for the next best thing. We’re convinced that what we currently have isn’t enough. If you’re always striving for something better or bigger, you’re focusing on the future. You’re not honoring the present you, and all the wonderful gifts that you have.

We know it can be hard to see the glass half-full when you’re tired, cranky, and having a bad day. But here are some ways that you can tap into the appreciative side easily and see what you have in front of you. 

You can use our Ink+Volt Gratitude Journal to give you a guided way to identify the things or people or experiences that are making your day. Taking a few moments out of your day to do this exercise can do wonders for your mood, energy, and outlook. When you are aware of the vast resources, skills, and wonderful people you have in your life, you’ll feel more connected to yourself and self-worth. 

Another gratitude exercise you can try is to send a thank you card to a friend, colleague, or loved one. Studies show that when we do something nice for others, we’ll experience the positive benefits as well. So go ahead and pick out a pretty card and express your appreciation to this person. Maybe it’s a teacher who went out of their way to help your child feel at ease. Or a coworker who went the extra mile and supported you and your team. Or a best friend who’s been by your side.

If you need tips on how to write the perfect thank you card, check out our guide here.

By doing these gratitude exercises, you’ll see that you have so much going on in your life, and that the people who love and respect you do so not because of your professional success, but because of who you are as a person.

Relationships and community

In our professional and personal lives, we measure our success by numbers and data. It’s about how many sales we closed. Or how many clients we signed. Or the number of connections we have on LinkedIn. Or the amount of views we got on a social media post. 

Instead of measuring success by numbers and figures, try orienting it towards people. It’s not about the number of LinkedIn connections you have, but how good of a friend or coworker or family member you are. Like that quote from It’s A Wonderful Life says, “No man is a failure who has friends.”

You can cultivate your relationships by being more involved at work, in your community, or even in your own home. Be present with the people you are with, instead of checking your devices. Offer to help out a coworker with their presentation. Drop off a meal to new parents. Volunteer at a community center or organize a food or clothing drive.

Nothing will bring more pleasure and fulfillment than knowing that you made a positive impact on someone’s life or brought a smile to a friend’s face. 

Curiosity and learning

When was the last time you took a class for the sake of learning something new? Just because we’re not in school anymore doesn’t mean we can’t go out and expand our mind. And as Albert Einstein says:  “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

Plus, the great thing about taking classes as an adult is that our self-worth and sense of achievement isn’t tied to grades or test scores anymore. We can just take pleasure in learning and experimenting.

Make a list of at least 5 activities or skills that you’ve always wanted to learn. Try not to pick something related to your professional development. Instead, connect with your inner desires. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn Italian. Or learn magic tricks. Or take a ballroom dancing class. Or play the piano.

Whatever it is, write it down. Then, pick one of the activities on your list and sign up for a class. If you’re looking for a budget conscious way to learn a skill, try finding a tutorial on YouTube. Or go on social media and see if you can barter something in exchange for a class. You could also try classes on Masterclass or Skillshare. Or check if your community or company offers any free workshops. 

You may not get a test score or a perfect report card out of this class, but you will derive so much more pleasure, and feel a huge sense of accomplishment in the process.

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