How to start redefining success

It’s easier than you think

Susan Doerksen Castro
6 min readMay 31, 2023
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Success is not a destination, it’s a journey
~ Zig Ziglar

My husband and I booked a family trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Zihua, as we call it, is located on the Pacific side of Mexico and is our second home. We’ve not been back since the pandemic began.

Needless to say, I’m full of destination energy, that energy where all you can think of is where you’re going, what you need, heck, I’ve even got a countdown timer on my phone. I can hardly wait.

This destination energy is the same kind of energy I used to have in abundance, back in my corporate days. It was so strong I could practically taste the arrival at said goal, becoming so narrow in my focus that nothing, and no one deterred me.

It’s also the energy I have much less of now, especially when I name an important milestone or goal for myself. For a good while, I found this lack of energy and drive very unnerving and extremely frustrating. “What’s wrong with me?” I often mused… When the energy and drive of accomplishment is how you know yourself in the world, its absence shakes the ground beneath you — more on this at another time!

In today’s letter, I want to share with you, how to start re-defining success, and to let you know that you do not need BIG energy to begin, nor do you need to envision an entirely new life or way, that where you are right now, is quite enough.

How and where to start

1) Invite a journey mindset.

This is meaningful for a few reasons.

First, it acknowledges that what got you here is worth honoring.

Second, it invites us to pace ourselves. We don’t need to run or race or hustle ourselves off to some far out distant land of goal-fully-accomplished, rather, it simply matters that we take the next step.

Finally, it helps us become mindful of enjoying the journey, and not succumbing to a belief that our joy or happiness is contingent upon us arriving somewhere in the future.

Success is here and now.

2) Name what feels good right now and what doesn’t.

Part of being on a journey means appreciating what’s exactly right in this moment and season of your life. Perhaps you are loving the connection you have with your teenage son. Or you’re feeling grateful for your neighborhood community. Maybe you love that you can now work from home.

Name what is good.

While it can be tempting to skip over the next part, don’t. Take some time to name what isn’t good. Or what feels hard. Maybe you notice the inertia that is in your body, making movement a challenge. Or perhaps your slate of work projects feel like a grind. Is there despair when you look at the so called “leaders” in your midst?

The parts of our life that don’t feel good at all, even if we can’t quite name why hold tremendous energy for change. Our anger, frustration, resentment, inertia, sadness, while being difficult to experience in the body, hold clues to what and where we are seeking a re-definition of success.

And, in honoring our emotional experience, we begin to claim success on the inside.

It matters that we have our tangible expressions of success, and it also deeply matters that we have an inner wellspring of joy and contentment!

3) Identify an area you’d like to re-define and why it matters.

This isn’t a goal setting practice in disguise, I promise.

It’s about holding up the magnifying class to a part of your experience that’s longing to shift.

This isn’t also about making a massive overhaul of this part of your life, discarding all progress to date.

Rather, it’s about honoring where you are now, and what small changes you can start to make.

Let’s explore what this looks like in practice from a recent example in my own life.

I was (and had been feeling) a certain amount of inertia in my body making it challenging to move into exercise and movement.

And the more I didn’t move in the way intended, the more I started to feel frustrated.

It mattered that I name the feelings, and see them. Both the frustration and the sense of inertia in my body.

I was also working on writing the manifesto concurrently, and equally felt an energy of restlessness and creative expression.

All this energy in my body — energy I was loving — felt like it needed an outlet, and yet oddly, I found it hard to move into movement, even simple movement.

The aim here is to develop some intimacy with what’s going on and why it matters to make a change.

We don’t have as much practice attending to our inner world experience including staying connected to our “why” and what deeply matters.

In this step we really awaken the energy that we need to make a shift. And we “see” ourselves more fully.

4) Name what you need to create success

To create success, you need to become fluent in the language of your own needs. All humans have needs, and learning your unique needs helps you become skillful in creating your newly defined success.

And our needs shift and change, so this isn’t a one and done thing! (They shift and change because we are always growing and changing.)

Some of the needs I have related to the earlier example include:

  • Honesty. I need to be honest with myself, and with a good friend so that I don’t drive my experience toward a place of shame. The more I flex this muscle, the more likely I am to stay out of self- judgment.
  • Progress. I’ve learned about myself that I can often make movement and exercise a “big” event. “Big” usually comes in the form or time or intensity. To honor this need for progress, I made the new measure of success: “Did you go down to your home gym and simply be in this space? And did you do one weight set that felt good today?”
  • Compassion. I can be really hard on myself, especially when it comes to movement. I’ve learned that compassion keeps me kind to myself and more apt to move in the direction of what matters to me. Sometimes, compassion looks like kind, encouraging words, journaling or chatting with a trusted friend.

For a list of feelings and needs we all have, visit this site.

Let’s recap

Success was redefined in a very practical way, in the example above.

It starts with where you are, and being intimate with your own experience.

It’s anchored in a start-with-self approach, and developing fluency with what you need, taking action based on what you know to be true about you.

Re-defining success is very “scope-able” (not sure if this is a word, but it is today) and practical!

How did it work out for me in the example above?

Success more often than not, for me, means tuning into my needs, and making a conscious intention to name and meet my needs

“What do I need?” is a question that reflects this shift.

Success is also about being on a journey, and taking that next step.

“What small step can you take right now?” is a reflection of me knowing my old measure of success which was based on taking epic action, and honoring momentum and progress.

All to say the inertia I still sometimes feel, especially as the weather shifts, is met with a staying open to showing up. It’s about honoring my experience with honesty and compassion. And, truth telling to my bestie also helped because she reached out today to invite me to work out together.

With that, I’ll sign off!

In service of you and the agenda that’s calling!

Susan xo

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Susan Doerksen Castro

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