Discover more from Sport Psych Insight
Values, Identity, and Performance
Who are you when push comes to shove?
Who you are is more than just surface level descriptors like athlete, artist, coach, or CEO. Underneath these titles is how you carry yourself and the efforts you make to authentically emulate them. How do you show up in the face of adversity? The answer to this question lies in your values.
Values are your guiding principles, the things that are most important to you and who you want to be. Russ Harris writes: “Values are not about what you want to get or achieve; they are about how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis; how you want to treat yourself, others, and the world around you.”
Amidst the chaos of being a performer values keep you moving in the direction of what matters.
Clarifying Your Values
Writing is one way to determine what’s important to you. Putting a name to a feeling or action cannot only bring about more clarity, but also allow you to define your values within that context of your own life. Here’s are a few prompts to get you started:
“I am someone who is…”
“How I want to treat other people is with…”
“I am athlete/artists/performer who strives to be…”
“When faced with a difficult decision, I want to act with…”
Add a few answers to each of these questions, and feel free to come up with your questions too. These are values. If you need some inspiration, check here for a more complete list of values.
Pro tip: rather than coming up with an extensive list, I’d recommend whittling your list down to 3-5 values and reflecting on how your actions can demonstrate them in a variety of different life or performance contexts. The values bullseye below is a helpful tool to help you walk through this process. This specific example uses soccer, but it’s applicable to a variety of performance settings.
Incorporating Your Values
Values are continual actions that define how you want to act. This makes them different than goals which are specific, measurable, challenging, and can be achieved. Think of values not as the destination but as the path helps you get there. No matter how close or far you are to reaching your goals, your values remain with you, serving as a constant form of guidance and informing the choices you make along the way.
Living in accordance with your values therefore comes down to the decisions that you make. The actions that you take either move you toward your values or away from them. Performers frequently come face to face with adversity, and it is at these crossroads that values come in handy.
Take John Collinson, a big mountain skier from Utah who has taken to social media to share his recovery story in dealing with knee injuries over the last two years.
“Being injured is a pretty lonely place—both the hours/days/weeks spent starting at the ceiling wondering what your future holds, as well as getting your ass up off the couch when it’s time to put in the work everyday. At the end of the day you’re the only one who can push yourself towards the future you want to see.”
Injury is a place where goals become foggy and timelines variable. Values offer an opportunity to reflect and ask oneself: “Are my actions moving me toward to what’s important to me, or taking me away from those things?” Though he doesn’t explicitly state his values, it’s clear that Collinson is choosing to act in accordance with principles like courage, persistence, and strength. Instead of wallowing in uncertainty, he makes the choice to get up and put in daily work that moves him toward his values and a future he wants to carve out for himself.
But injury is not the only place where values present themselves. When you enter the weight room, values such as challenge, persistence, or self development can set the tone of your training, serving as mental reminders for who want to be. Other values like authenticity, beauty, or creativity may guide artists, actors, or musicians as they step up to the canvas, the studio, or onto the stage. This is the beauty of values. No matter the intersections you encounter, your values point you in the direction to act in accordance with what matters most.
It is often said that the path to mastery is not linear. Circumstances change, challenges come unexpectedly and at inopportune times. Having a solid understanding of your values cannot only help keep you on the path toward personal growth, but can also offer you the comfort of knowing you are staying true to the person you are striving to be.
No threads, no hacks—just science and its applications. 🧠📈