My Musings

Measuring Success

Success (noun): The accomplishment of an aim or purpose

I’m getting all caught up in the new year vibe and I’m wondering what a successful year would look like. Obviously the fertility ‘journey’ casts a shadow over every single thing, but how should we be measuring success? (That’s a personal “we”, by the way, as it will be unique to each individual.)

Monetary markers – Job titles, promotions, savings in the bank?

Success is perhaps most frequently associated with career achievements and the monetary markers, but I got a promotion last year (which left me bemused: a professional promotion amidst living with baby loss?! The most challenging personal time of my life) and I can’t say that I feel I’m winning at life. Money doesn’t buy happiness (but I guess it doesn’t hurt). It did make me happy though, the gratification from the faith that others have shown in me and the extra responsibility and challenge ahead. It was the culmination of four years’ work – a bittersweet promotion I would not have received if I’d have been off on maternity leave with Summer – and the realisation that not every part of my life was falling apart. It has been a success on the professional front. Is that enough?

Tangible markers – Home, car, standard of living?

Or maybe success is all about stuff and the nice things you have? I think you know me well enough by now to know that I’m not going to dwell on this for long, or pretend I think this the most important measure to success. Tangible markers are a nice-to-have, but it doesn’t fundamentally mean a whole lot – you can’t take it with you. So yes, we’ve just expanded and done up our home, but it was always with the aim of expanding our family. The plan was always for us to have more space for a baby and for me to enjoy my maternity leave at home, all the more for it. Oh, I also got a car by the way, completely impractical for a baby, but who cares? It’s a mini success if it means one aspect of my life is no longer on hold due to this fertility ‘journey’, right?

Emotional markers – Relationships and experiences?

Really, I think it’s about the quality of our relationships and interactions with people that matter most. I’ve said before that that’s what I want my legacy to be: on my deathbed I’m going to remember what I’ve done, who I’ve been, not the things I have and can’t take with me. I am going to measure my success in my deeds and my relationships. That’s why I want my baby.

That’s why this fertility stuff upsets me, because for a long while now, we’ve been the couple who value the emotional markers, more than anything. We responsibly put all the other stuff in place, but we value quality time with each other, friends and family and all of the experiences the most. We’ve just not yet been able to experience the next stage of life that we would really like to: parenthood. To share our home and all we’ve learnt, with someone else. To expand our team of two.

It reminds me of a book I read once, “How will you measure your life?” and it labelled things as hygiene factors and motivational factors. The hygiene factors are the tangible factors that provide a nice or enjoyable environment e.g. money and a nice house, but it’s the motivational factors which are more likely to keep you happy i.e. the challenge of a new job or the mutual love of people you respect and value. Try as you might to improve the hygiene factors of your job/life, you’re not going to suddenly love it. At best, you won’t hate it anymore. Beyond a certain point, hygiene factors are a by-product, rather than the cause of happiness or success. You need to think about the motivational factors. We are now motivated by wanting a family, but we can’t control our fertility journey. We just can’t. We can have a plan, but what’s the point? There are absolutely zero certainties. That’s why it’s so difficult.

It also calls to mind Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (not a theory I’ve studied or particularly read about, and one that I’m sure has been discredited and built upon, over time), so I’ll just discuss my limited interpretation of it.

Source: Wikipedia

The pyramid of needs studies the pattern through which human motivations generally move. Starting at the bottom of the pyramid, it depicts the basic bodily needs we all initially need satisfying (food, water, shelter). Once this has been satisfied, we move to the next stage, psychological needs (the pursuit of friendship and personal accomplishment). The final stage is intrinsic growth, self-fulfilment. I discuss all this, because often I wonder, am I just having a first-world breakdown here? Is it the privilege of having so many needs already satisfied, the luxury of time? Baby or no baby, I’ve a pretty good (successful?) life, haven’t I? So why all the moping? Oh yeah, because my baby died. Thrice. I am trying to find new motivational factors and meaning, but it all keeps coming back to the fact that we’re actually not where we want to be. Ungrateful? Maybe. Understandable? Maybe not.

I just googled and decided upon the definition for the top of this blog (“success”) and I can see why I’m tying myself up in knots, making very little headway thinking about this. If success is the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose, am I not just trying to figure out what the purpose of me/my life is here? A full on, lockdown-induced, existential crisis. Just what I need on a random Tuesday evening (!)

I’m tempted to delete this whole rambling blog. I think I was on the right lines when I said I just wanted to move forwards this year, but what counts as a step? Do I count all of the traditional steps (promotions and new stuff – which I guess are the ‘basic needs’), or only the emotional ones (‘psychological and self-fulfilment’)? I guess it’s simple, if it makes me feel good, that’s a success. Jeez, I really do need to stop thinking so much. It’s good though, being able to think a little more broadly, outside of baby loss, for once. I’m counting that a small win. A success, if you will.

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(2) Comments

  1. Claudia says:

    Acknowledging that your successes may not be the standard, is a moving forward.
    Even if it isn’t the step we really want to take.
    I think this year will be about celebrating the successes that come your way instead of measuring them (because, as we know, they won’t really make it up to where we should be 😘)

  2. Karen Palmer says:

    I did enjoy reading that. I could tell it was one of your unplanned ones and it was brilliant. Like going on a journey. And you took us right down to “the” question, which was amazing. It’s a good question to have hanging in the air over 2021 xx

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