A few years ago, I was on the Yes I Can Living podcast with Cathy Johnson. Towards the end of our episode, she asked me my definition of success. Here is what I said:

I probably would have had a different answer two or three years ago. I have always been very ambitious, I have always been very goal-oriented. I was taught to achieve, and pick up the shiny pennies, and that would get rewarded. I feel as if I have done so much work on myself, and what it means to feel aligned and fulfilled, so that definition probably doesn’t apply to me anymore. I literally think that for me, success is alignment when I am in the flow with things, and less attached to the outcome of things. It’s a mind-body-spirit alignment. I don’t want to just say when I am happy, because happiness can be a different definition for everybody. Don’t get me wrong – I still have goals; there are still milestones that I want to achieve as an entrepreneur, but I am not attached to them, and I am not going to allow them to define my happiness. COVID helped to shift what it means to feel successful…I have always had this mindset of I am not doing enough, and it can be very destructive; it keeps you burning the midnight oil, and you’re not a productive human being for your business or those people around you. If I can just keep encouraging myself that I am doing enough, and at the end of the day, I felt as if I have done enough to move things forward…it’s [to feel more of] a day-by-day success, rather than that over-arching [sense of achievement].

I remember not feeling completely confident in my response at the time. Perhaps because it still felt like a concept beyond my reach, or maybe because I had yet to fully define it for myself. But in that moment I realized success wasn’t set in stone; it was fluid, individual, and ever-evolving. As human beings, we are constantly changing and growing, so it only makes sense that what we want in life should too.

In addition to the pandemic, having a child has definitely influenced an evolved version of success, made it softer so to speak. It has less to do with external circumstances, and more to do with my inner world. What I want most is to feel more freedom and peace. I often ask myself freedom from what exactly, and what I have heard from my inner voice is freedom from myself, the pressure I have put upon myself to push, prove, achieve. I have had this belief that in order to find that freedom, the outside circumstances need to change or even completely dissolve, but I know that isn’t true. Applying that pressure on ourselves comes from within, so releasing the pressure is an inside job as well.

How to define success for yourself

Just yesterday, the tables turned and I got to interview Cathy for The Healthified Podcast. I asked how someone can define success for themselves, if they have had yet to do so. She encourages a journaling exercise she calls “hot pen.” Sit down with a pen and paper and just start writing about what you want, what you want life to look and feel like, your dreams, goals, ambitions. Even if you have nothing to write, start out by writing I have nothing to write and see what flows from there. It is likely that something will come up, even if you have to do a little digging. Then check in with your values. Is what you wrote down aligning with your values? For example, Cathy explained that her four core values are faith, family, freedom, and service to others. Whenever she makes decisions in business and life, it’s helpful to use her core values as a lens. If you go down a certain path, working to achieve some idea of success, while sacrificing your core values, you aren’t going to feel very “successful” on the other side. Values can also evolve, so it is important to keep checking in with yourself during various chapters of life.

Success is very individual

Just like our wellness journeys, success – and the path to get there – is very individual. We can get highly influenced by how society defines success. I am a big believer in work-life balance, and I have resisted “hustle culture” for so long. But because I wasn’t grinding or working long hours like other entrepreneurs portrayed in the media, I had this belief I wasn’t doing it “right.” What that even means I am not so sure. All I know is that for me, feeling burnt out is the opposite of success.

My idea of success has shifted from being all about business, and more about slowing down and savoring the simplicity of life. I am in a season of life characterized by home and family, while also wanting to maintain a strong sense of self. There can be both. Finding that balance (if it even exists) makes me feel more successful as well. Some days feel more “successful” than others, but there are always wins to be celebrated, no matter how small.