Five Signs It’s Time to Redefine What Matters

Are these patterns showing up?

Susan Doerksen Castro
7 min readFeb 15, 2022

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
~ Edward de Bono

I know you’re successful, and there are so many ways, habits and patterns you’ve developed that brought you to today.

In this article I want to point out a handful of patterns that we can easily “put up with” because we sense that they’re part of the cost of success, however, I believe, and know that what they really are, signs that it’s time for a redefinition of what matters.

Some of these signs and “tricky” ways of working. They don’t feel easy to budge or change, yet I am a firm believer that what is hard or tricky for us is actually an invitation or a gift begging us to consider a new way, or new approach to things. I have seen it time and time again; the difficult terrain of our lives or work is where the gems are. It takes courage to stare these in the face and be there with them.

So, this letter today is yes, about naming signs of what is no longer working and it’s about saying “Hey, Dear One — something sweet could reside here instead.”

There may be tender terrain ahead. I’ve been here too, so grab my hand and feel into what resonates.

Sign One: Exhaustion and/or Burnout

Is exhaustion your norm? Do you fall into bed most nights completely depleted and so excited to put your head down to sleep?

There is a Way of Working that I’ve come to discover in women intent on generating impact and intentionality in their lives; they believe there is a certain amount of sacrifice and hard work that goes along with this choice to want more. There is truth to this. Choosing what matters and being all in on it has some costs, and being in your life and having to “pay for it” with high levels of exhaustion is not one the prices you should pay.

All the optimism we can muster along with a good night’s sleep cannot fully restore our capacities in the way that’s need to be in our lives when we’re exhausted. I’ll talk about this more later, but optimism is not a sustainable strategy to get us through burn out.

While I honor this Way which is so willing to burn the candle at both ends there are beliefs nestled in this pattern that a good night’s sleep can’t get at. There are cultural and societal patterns active at work within us and around us — “Ways of Working” that it’s time to see more fully, name, and shift. Success need not come off the back of exhaustion. Be awake Dear One, and notice just how willing you are to work hard.

Sign Two: Constant Preoccupation with Work

When we embark on a new initiative, sign up with an exciting new client or have a presentation to create on our favorite topic our imaginations can go wild. We might even wake up with ideas for that project. And, this is not what I’m talking about when I suggest a pattern of constantly thinking about work.

My clients often cite a sadness about a pattern they notice; they gap out at dinner time and miss their son talking about the best part of his day. Or, they’re out for dinner with their partner and have to really work at being “there”. The double ouch comes when their partner asks what’s got them distracted — they can she’s not really with them. There is a preoccupation with work that results in a lack of presence that many women I work with discover. One woman told me she didn’t remember most of last year.

I love the courage here. None of the women I work with want to miss out on any part of what matters to them. They have a life they’ve intentionally crafted and this pattern robs them of the joy of the small moments, of the daily miracles and a fuller connection to their special humans. Because you are working so diligently at creating success, I hope you will stay open to greater presence in this life of yours and strengthen the muscles that allow you to be in the amazing fullness of your life.

Sign Three: Inconsistency with Health Practices

My clients don’t need convincing about the merit of a good night’s sleep, movement or eating well. In fact they often have a deeper self-care toolkit than most. They’ve experienced the deep benefits of taking care of their body, heart and spirit and rely on these practices to fuel them.

AND, there are times when the demands are so high and/or their energy doesn’t match their intention to care for themselves on a deeper level. They find themselves longing for a measure of ease and consistency with these practices that doesn’t quite feel accessible and it’s a source of frustration.

They also know that their health practices are sacred and essential to live their lives and do their deepest work so why, they wonder is it so hard to be consistent with their practices and why, if they’re so meaningful are they not doing them? These questions run in the background causing them to question themselves and their own commitment to being healthy.

This signpost can invite us to shift into a view of success where we allow our bodies to be more than machines…. they can be the vessels through which our deepest expression and contribution emerges. Isn’t it amazing to consider that “greater” success can become possible by attending to that which isn’t work?

Sign Four: An Absence of Creativity and Play

From an efficiency perspective, it does the brain well to spend time playing or being creative. It’s an opportunity to be in flow and forget the passage of time. We become so immersed with our baking, knitting or painting and find ourselves experiencing an ease that isn’t characteristic to our day to day lives.

My clients know in their heads it’s a good idea to have a hobby that’s “not work related” and they know it’s good to set the goal and outcome sides of themselves aside for a bit but that it’s hard. Ironically, the more we would benefit from play in our lives or a good belly laugh that results in play, the harder it is seems to be to reach for it.

Creativity isn’t important simply because it accesses the right hand side of our brain, it’s important because it gives our bodies experience of ease, and flow. What is possible is that if we cultivate these capacities in one area of our lives they can be more easy to access in other moments. Creativity teaches us much needed skills so we can reap the “benefit” of them elsewhere.

Instead of thinking of creativity or play as new things to do, we can think of them as sources of joy, inspiration, meaning or delight. Giving ourselves permission to include such exquisite emotions in our day to day lives is transformative!

Sign Five: Excessive dependence on gratitude and optimism

“Tomorrow is a new day.” Or, “I just need to be grateful for how things are.” Or, “It’s just a season I’m in — it won’t last.” are the kinds of expressions I often hear. I’ve said them (or thought them) all. It’s a deep rooted belief system that asks us to call on our deepest reservoirs of determination by accessing positivity and putting a smile on our faces.

I get it, it’s hard to see that we are tired, and we thrive off a belief that anything is possible with a little hard work and a smile. And if we do pause, we won’t allow ourselves to indulge in a view that we might be less off, or a victim because this displaces our personal power and our sense of what is possible. So we don’t.

We scan our lives and choose gratitude. We scan our experience and choose optimism and we know that putting ourselves to bed after a hard day is a good strategy because in the morning our reserves will be full and we’ll be able to tackle all the challenges in front of us again.

This daily way of working that is so courageous and fierce. But what belief is running below the surface that keeps this pattern alive? Can you be curious? Sadly, no amounts of optimism can shift a pattern — believe me, I’ve tried this route, and it doesn’t work.


Notice, simply notice.

All of these signs above are invitations or doorways to explore a new definition of success. And, notice that part of you (because I have this way in me too) that can so easily dismiss these signs and Keep On Going. It takes an act of courage to say you want to shift a pattern, and in the same moment to not know how it can possibly happen for you.

Because this is what I also know to be true. My clients who are women just like you, are on the frontier of their own growth and development — they are what I call “growers” and so what they may need to move through a difficult way of working into a new way isn’t learning they’ll access in a book, a course, or on a podcast. What they might need is a guide that can help them be in their uncertainty, access their own wisdom of “where to from here” and to cultivate new skills and capacities.

I see you. You are amazing, accomplished and powerful. Thank you for reading this letter today.

As always, if you have questions, or reflections, I welcome these. I’m on the other end of this letter, so just jump into the comments below.

And if you’d like to receive inspiration and practical guidance on how to redefine success so you can realize a new or yet to be known new, more fulfilling agenda, simply join here:



Susan Doerksen Castro

Entrepreneur & Integral Master Coach™ helping accomplished women redefine success so they can realize a new, more fulfilling agenda for their lives.