What does Ash Barty’s retirement have to do with purpose?
It’s hard to identify a public figure – sporting or otherwise – who Australian’s love more than Ash Barty. She role models hard work, honesty, humility, integrity, transparency and the list goes on.
Yes, she has many outstanding tournament titles to her name, but it’s more about the way she goes about it. Like any ‘brand’, it takes hard work and consistency to create such an image, exemplified in her media conference earlier today.
So what does her shock retirement at the ripe old age of 25(!) have to do with purpose? I don’t know her so I can’t say anything for sure, however her interviews and statements provide some clues.
Purpose is about aims and goals, and meaning is about the significance of those goals. Her Wimbledon victory felt like a major milestone and then the Australian Open was an opportunity to reward herself, her team and her fans. She’d lost the passion and drive to keep on achieving at the highest level, and that drove her decision to retire.
There are two key dimensions to purpose: intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Earning a living, attaining good health and wellbeing, finding the right job or being excited about jumping out of bed every day are examples of intrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivators are more about giving, helping and supporting others. When we do it we get good vibes and feelings, however it stems from an intention and focus on others gaining rewards.
What I see in Ash is someone who is no longer thriving in tennis, and looking to thrive in other aspects of life. Spending more time with family and friends – not to mention a pending marriage – is a shift to a new type of intrinsic motivation for her.
We also see a shift toward extrinsic motivations, or ‘higher purpose’, with her stated desire to encourage Aboriginal and indigenous kids in sport, for example.
Purpose is never a fixed or static thing, it evolves with us and as the world changes around us.
I sense that we will hang on her sporting wins and successes in the short term, and over time we will come to realise there’s a lot more to the Ash Barty story, and that she has done what very few high achievers manage to do – to go out on their terms when they are on top.
What impact does Ash Barty have on you? Has it prompted you to reflect on your direction in life?
I invite you to add your thoughts.