Six Shifts to Consider As You Re-define Success

Photo by Michal Hlaváč on Unsplash

Be intentional about what you say yes to and what you say no to
~ Fran Hauser

There was a light dusting of snow on the trees last night, but it’s still fall outside. I’m not ready for winter. Fall is a teacher I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to. Fall teaches us to let things go. To release. To set down. Fall is a prerequisite to shift into the next season. When a tree sets her leaves down, do we consider this odd? No, in fact we expect it. This season simply reminds us that setting down is a part of life.

In this article, I want to share with you six shifts to consider as you examine what success means to you. Just as the maple trees outside my house are lighter, expect that these shifts can offer you the same. These shifts involve some “setting down” — of old ways, old beliefs, old patterns. As the leaves that graced each tree were once welcome and provided shade or color, now they are no longer necessary; releasing what’s no longer needed is also about honoring what once was so that a shift can happen.

Shifts don’t need to involve throwing out the old. Rather, they can include a new perspective and moving away from either/or living. A shift can involve a broadening of perspective that allows us more room for wisdom and paradox.

As you read, notice what might want to fall away.

Shift One: Release “on/off” living.

I recall a time in my life when I actively tried to be “on”. Being “on” meant engaging from a place of higher energy, bigger smiles, bolder presence, and to ensure that those around me noticed I was “on”. It didn’t matter if I had the energy reserves, I felt I needed to shore them up.

I call this, the Way of the Light Switch — as if we can, with a flick of a switch be “on”. There are times in our life where high energy courses through us; this way feels effortless. But not always. To try and emerge with authentic engagement in times of burnout, low energy, exhaustion is hard. Really hard.

I invite you to consider a shift that allows for seasonality. One that is more rhythmic. What if we allowed ourselves to have seasons like fall — of release, surrender and setting things down? What about a the gift of a winter, where we had a longer season of rest, less or stillness?

The collective expectation to be in endless summer is counter our nature as dynamic, ever evolving women. And at what cost?

What would it be like to release a way of being “on/off” and shift into a way of being that is more seasonal?

Shift Two: Does success lie inside you? Outside you?

Society measures success by what others — including ourselves — can see. The job with the title, the car, the house, the number of kids, the size of the bonus, the size of the backyard, the number of trips we take, the number of staff we have. All these measures matter.

And they lie outside us. Often they’re quantitative, sometimes qualitative, and they demonstrate our success in a tangible way.

And, it can happen that when we don’t have these measures of success we feel a sense of lack. We question our success and we may allow others to do the same.

What if we held a fuller definition when we measure success? Not simply what we see around us, or can count, but also how we feel? What if we took inventory of our level of fulfillment, joy or peace?

These “states of being” may feel hard to achieve, and/or that if we feel good well, we’re just lucky. And to some extent I think that’s true — emotions come and go.

The invitation here is to consider adding in measures of success that are inside you — unseen — a life lived in alignment with your values, a life marked with joy or ease, a life that is soulful, one that is connected to your purpose.

What internal measures of success matter to you?

Shift Three: Release Keeping-Everyone-Happy

It matters that our kids are happy. We like having a partner who is content. We value clients who are satisfied. When we care about our people, (and I do) this has us tethered to the expectations of others. It’s a fabulous tethering when we’ve got all the plates spinning and we’re surrounded by smiles. But it’s also the breeding ground of resentment — making everyone happy as the goal in itself eventually loses it’s glam.

What if we added in a question that allowed us to tether more firmly to our values? A counterbalance that feels heavy and right? What if we assessed our life for alignment to what matters on a deeper level, and we checked for a day filled with values anchored actions?

Too many of my clients wake in the night replaying a scenario with a peer, or neighbor where they fear they disappointed another or said the wrong thing. The lack of harmony gnaws at their spirit and keeps them up at night with an anxiety that lives in the bones.

If a value of ours is authenticity, as an example, or integrity or kindness, then we can assess our actions against that measuring stick, and create some room for the discomfort of an aligned life.

Committing to way where we prioritize the happiness of others is one we all know, what would happen if we could relax the grip?

Shift Four: Know how much “more” is enough.

More learning
More growth
More money
More likes
More time
More shoes
More sleep
More freedom
More impact
More movement
More vegetables

In our super sized, capitalist culture the invitation is always to have more. It has it’s allure, especially when it’s about more chocolate. But the chase is endless — you’ll never, ever arrive when the goal is about having more.

What about knowing how much more is enough? It takes some conscious attention to define what will really satisfy yet when we do, and we find our self living in a place of enough, it’s glorious! There is so much freedom to be found in releasing “more” and becoming more intimately acquainted with your places of being fully satiated.

The pursuit of more is endless. It’s hamster wheel living. It’s a life of comparison and a life of hustling, because you never get to more. And it is a way that robs us of feeling like we’ve done or had enough.

Shift Five: Who says you have to take up space?

Women are being invited to play big, take up space, be bold, be more…. yes to all this!

I’m all for big, bold, powerful and taking up space. Yet, are there not also parts of our lives where we might want to be off the radar, off the grid, quiet, tiny or just plain absent? What about a menu of all-the-forms and ways-to-self-express that are independent of size?

What if you want to simply show up different? What if you could take up any shape you wanted? Where would you expand? Where would you contract? And what if your way of being in the world was as effortless as your breathing?

A life of success isn’t governed by new ways of being nor by a new agenda for women. We don’t need ways of being — we need our own way of being, one that’s grounded in more choice and full of agency and a f-ton of sufficiency. What’s yours?

You get to show up how you want to show up when you want to show up.

Shift Six: You’re already successful.

For the goal driven, accomplished woman determined to reach her destination, she may forget that she’s already successful now. We’re encouraged to adopt a way of being in the world that keeps our eye on what’s ahead of us and to keep our heads down, and sometimes hearts off to get there.

A clear, compelling destination is fantastic. Having goals as radar is powerful.

But way if we learned to include the journey and made priority having the day to day matter as well? How then would you design your life? Would today be different if you made both important? What would shift? How would your pace change? Could you enjoy success sooner?

It matters that we leave the hustle behind and a life where we expect long hours of working. Endless to do lists, and falling on the sofa at the end of the work day with only the energy to lift the remote is a hard way of achieving success.

Can we weave joy into the journey with lots of pause points and celebration along the way?

Back to the big maple trees out back.

I notice that they set down one wee leaf at a time. Sure, from time to time the wind blows and sweeps many more off their branches. But today, I can count them as they fall. Miraculously, that pace works. It feels slow to me, but that’s part of the shift I’m inviting, to allow the pace of growth and change that’s modeled in nature to inform my own. Small shifts get us there.

I hope this letter supports you as you define what success means to you. If you’d like to receive more weekly inspiration and practice on behalf of redefining success and realizing your own, more fulfilling agenda sign up here:



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Susan Doerksen Castro

Susan Doerksen Castro

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