The Five Stages of Redefining Success

There is a role for growth and experiencing the world, and pushing the boundaries of that, and then there is a time to bring it within. All people are at different stages of that journey. ~ Karan Bajaj

One of the most rewarding parts of my work is being with women who are listening to the whispers and nudges they’ve realized aren’t going to wash off in the shower. They learn the whispers while quiet, endure and want to be heard. And they find their way to be heard.

It’s amazing because many, many women, simply keep on going. I know I’ve ignored many nudges, feelings and bodily invitations to listen over the years.

Listen to what you say?

Simply listening to what’s happening inside themselves. In this loud and distracted world, it’s hard to listen. Yet as I see the suffering on our planet and among people, more than ever, I believe the wisdom of women (that we all have) needs to be heard and expressed so that a new era of success can arrive.

In this article, I share the five stages a woman, perhaps you, will encounter on the journey of redefining success. It will offer insight into where she’s been or give a glimpse of what’s ahead. And, I acknowledge that while this journey is shared as five stages, that change is never linear, nor so neat and tidy, nor so well behaved. You can expect that on this journey you may re-visit a stage, and expect that becoming acquainted with a stage can also mean more ease on the journey, even in the midst of discomfort.

Journey on!

Stage One: Awakening

In this stage, the nudges start to awaken you. A realization that what used to make you happy no longer does. Sometimes part of the puzzle is that on the surface everything seems good and therefore, “should be” good enough. You don’t have big complaints but life just feels “off”.

Part of the discomfort of this stage is you may lack language to describe what’s happening on the inside, to people around you (if you tell anyone at all). You may ask yourself: “Why don’t I enjoy this like I used to?” or “Is this (collection of achievements) all there is?” You sense a growing dissatisfaction with how things are.

Key shifts to make in this stage include:

  • learning to hang out with discomfort
  • not minimizing your experience with by trying to be “positive about” or “grateful for” how things are
  • being with a trusted friend who can listen and appreciate that what is going on inside is not a “problem to solve for”

Stage Two: Acknowledging

Your awakening allows you to acknowledge that something has to shift and change. Life (or parts of it) no longer have the same juice and even if it did, you’re no longer sure it’s what you want. Curiosity goes a long way here as does disappointment. Disappointment allows you to loosen your grip on how things are, and explore questions like “Whose version of success have I been living?” and “What matters to me now?”

Part of what’s tricky in this stage is that while you know something needs to change, you might not know what to change, or, how — you’re without a reliable roadmap (because you’ve never been here before!) Feeling like you’re off-center prompts searching to help fix the discomfort. Frustration or resentment might be closer to the surface and you may feel “messy”.

Key shifts to make in this stage include:

  • allowing your emotions to surface (they’re clues!)
  • being clear about the impacts / risks of a life lived that is less that satiating and / or lived according to another’s definition of success
  • inviting rest, self care and kind self talk to help soften old patterns of staying in motion and doing more to feel productive or “like your old self”
  • acknowledge you’ve growing towards a fuller expression of self and what matters to you.

Stage Three: Allowing Desire

Allowing desire may feel easy and obvious and while it’s exactly what will help shift your center of gravity (as described above), it’s actually not so easy to claim. Why? Because the old way of being in life — efficient, accomplished, achieving does not have its foundation in joy or pleasure; rather it’s foundation is activity. Pleasure isn’t considered bad per se, but it’s certainly not viewed as the foundation of a new life or way.

Compassion goes a long way as you yield to desire, feeling into life and how things can be different. What is meant by desire here isn’t long nights of passion (although knock yourself out if that’s what’s been missing), rather desire is sensing into what you deeply enjoy doing and giving yourself permission to enjoy it. This stage unfolds as you explore what you want and don’t want, and you continuously listen, want, dislike, release and feel deeply etc.

Key shifts to make in this stage include:

  • lessen the grip of living (only) with goals and lean into (also) loving life on the journey
  • invite your senses to help you experience life
  • release old habits or ways you’ve done that feel flat or stale
  • compassionately notice that you may feel impatient for change

Stage Four: Active Discovery

As desire satiates, you find yourself open to taking risks and experimenting with new ways to discover what feels good or right for you now. Life and work start to feel like a new playground with joy closer at hand. You are guided by questions like “How do I feel about this?” and “Why does this matter to me?” and you employ courage to actively design new ways or rhythms in your life.

The residue of earlier stages continues to fall away as you’ve released patterns that you’ve outgrown and you experience a certain spaciousness. You start to “feel like yourself” however you also know that you’ve changed and are no longer the person you were.

Key shifts to make in this stage include:

  • become fluent in the language of your heart and needs
  • invite your body to support you through the change
  • learn to say your Yes’s and No’s
  • know that some will be disappointed by your new choices

Stage Five: Alive & Aligning

By this stage you’ve already discovered there is no “arrival”, nor a destination to be reached. What a relief to simply be on the journey and love life just as it is. You notice and welcome opportunities to adjust how things are and continuously integrate new shifts that fit the season you’re in. And, you are fully present and engaged with what — and who — is in your life

The sweetness of this stage is that the three emotions of curiosity, compassion and courage are with you moment by moment. This isn’t a place of “I’ve figured it out”, rather it’s a presence with yourself where you deeply care for and respect yourself throughout each moment — you are and feel alive in all it’s fullness and life, and those in it with you are savored.

As you’ve read through this, notice what feels true to your experience, and what might feel foreign. What is so lovely is that you’re becoming more familiar with the journey and you can locate yourself on it!

More Reasons to Familiarize Yourself with The Journey

  • Change is disorienting; to know the terrain is to learn how to support yourself where you are (versus try to ignore or escape it);
  • Change isn’t always fun, but it’s worthwhile. To be able to see both of what’s tricky where you are, as well as the gifts helps you settle in and heed the wisdom on the journey;
  • Other women are traveling on this journey, learning shared language helps us support one another;
  • So much of the journey happens on the inside. For some of us this terrain is less known. Signposting this journey enables the courage to embark on it.

And finally, what’s true is that your journey will be your own, and unique so it may vary a bit. But I can assure you, once you’re on it, you won’t look back.

The Journey and Stages defined above need benefit from you being in dialogue with other women. The utility of this pathway will grow as women who are on the journey inform what it’s like to be in each stage, along with what helps.

If you feel so inclined I’d love your feedback on what you’ve read. Thank you so much for being on this journey with me!



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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.