My Big Lesson When Redefining Success

Susan Doerksen Castro
6 min readJul 5, 2022

Hindsight is 20/20

Photo by Philippe D. on Unsplash

You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending. ~ C.S. Lewis

Some lessons come easily, gracefully.

You’re (sort of) ready for them.

This is about a lesson learned the hard way. I wasn’t ready for it, nor did I expect it. I thought I was doing everything right.

While I don’t tend to live with regret, this lesson was full of instruction that I couldn’t ignore and I want to share with you. I want to be a lighthouse — offering you a new way of being successful so you can enjoy more ease, joy and spaciousness!

So — the back story!

I was the Poster Girl of Success

To be honest — I didn’t feel that way, but I’d had enough feedback in my life to let me know I was showing up for life in an impressive way.

And I liked to show up in ways that impress others.

I was the Vice-President of Human Resources. I had the title, the team, the pay and the perks. I had the influence.

But it wasn’t just The Job,

I was (and still am) married to a super handsome, eight-years-younger-than-me, intelligent guy — an engineer — and we had two adorable little boys.

My oldest was born The Poster Child of Allergies (as per our pediatric allergist), and thanks to my degree in nutrition, I “conquered” over a number of years what was a massive challenge for our son and family. Because when your kid can’t eat dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, eggs, wheat, shellfish, rice, barely, oats, citrus, tomatoes, and the list goes on, it’s a capital “C” challenge.

I became a goddess at meal planning, and getting kiddos to school, then after a long work day running frantically in my heels to pick them up just before childcare closed at 6 pm, only to land at home, meal practically already made (thanks to all my early morning effort).

Exercise took priority and I woke daily at 5:45 am to get my Beach Body workout done.

I had perfected my life.

The Unraveling

Little by little, things started to unravel.

There were internal voices tempting me to “escape” my life… you know, cancel all the meetings on my Outlook calendar and create some whitespace. Thoughts like “what if you just ran away from it all for awhile….?”

And while work was awesome I WAS EXHAUSTED. As a part of the senior leadership team, we had just wrapped up a 3 year historically significant re-branding and culture initiative for our 50 year credit union and after many long days, and after-hours stakeholder meetings, we felt proud and complete. And tired.

I knew how to work hard. I was determined on the mom front, at home, at work, I always showed up with extra.

The slow down from the strategy completion, got me thinking about what next — I wasn’t interested in status quo HR program maintenance post strategy implementation I wanted more impact, creative freedom, autonomy and the flexibility to do things my own way.

And at home my little kiddos were struggling with the long hours at school and came home very messy (which made for deliriously painful dinners) — It didn’t matter how perfectly planned the meals were — it was stress at dinner time.

I couldn’t be present with myself or my partner.

Each evening, after FINALLY getting kids to bed, it would be me googling the same thing: “how can I have more energy”.

Life was coming apart at the seams.

Three Months of Listening

I decided to take some time to reflect on what next, listening to nudges, journaling, reflecting, and imagining — a letter for another day — needless to say my company was “born” during that time: The Energy Oasis and by the end of the year I had resigned from my big role ready to launch a membership site for women struggling to have the energy they needed to a thriving life.

I was proud of myself — I had created “success” on the other side of the big job.

Then Came The Crash

About a year into running my business I became really disillusioned.

I felt like a boat crashing against the rocks. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but what I had built in my business wasn’t satisfying in the way it was supposed to be.

My departure from security was supposed to have cured my Big Life ailments.

I felt defeated (and oh so much shame). confused (what the heck is going on and why is This happening). I felt shipwrecked.

I was more exhausted than before and without any clear ways of solving for this problem.

I thought I had redefined success and set myself up for a better life — wtf?

Enter The Lesson

I knew myself well enough to see I need support and signed up to work with an Integral Master Coach (IMC). Burnout and depression are never too far away for me.

I also knew from my own training as an IMC that I had a current way of approaching things and could see I was in need of a new way or new approach.

But when you’re in it, you can see that new way.

Like Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

What I didn’t realize (then) is that while I now had the freedom, the autonomy and a better schedule that suited my kid’s needs, I was building my “new thing” with the same thinking that I used in my earlier work life.

This thinking is along the lines of “As long as your bring hard work and determination to all you do, then you’ll be successful.”

Success = Hard Work + Determination.

This belief is akin to an internal operating system.

It was responsible for the parts of my life that weren’t working (yet) — the exhaustion, the business created to impress others (and not consider my own needs), I had spaciousness but no ease, and joy was no where to be found. I was miserable!

Habits and Practices Are Not Enough!

A new form of success won’t come from a new set of habits, or practices, nor from reading any book. It comes from our beliefs about how to create success.

This is what I was able to access with my coach — she provided a way of new way of working and being successful that I could grow into — one built on the best parts of my current way where I could set down the limitations of the prior.

Because HOW we do and create success, is based on something deeper inside us.

It also means our current way of approaching success is deeply embedded in who we are. So we must become very conscious of it.

For most of us this way of being successful — and especially for accomplished professional women — has guided them their whole adult life. It’s been modeled to them and it’s all around us.

We have an obsession with “hard” work and love wearing our “I’m exhausted and oh so busy” badges. Let’s not.

I share this so you can start to see where this sneaky belief that masquerades as the panacea to all problems needs to be exposed for what it DOES offer us and what it DOESN’T.

It takes lots of conscious awareness to build a new way.

The Lighthouse

My lesson was challenging, but it brought me crashing into the shore, right to feet of a lighthouse.

The lighthouse reminds me there is a new way to be successful, so while I sometimes still crash chasing The Thing, I much more easily set this old way aside and steer the boat in a new direction.

I don’t need it anymore.

And maybe you don’t either.

Only love — and a whole lot of lighthouse for you,

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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.