120: Redefining Career Success


Welcome friends to Episode #120 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. When we think about what we want next in terms of our careers, it can be difficult to go down the road less traveled. Many careers and organizations have a well-defined career path that looks like a series of promotions or lateral moves that eventually lead to an end destination. The head of a company, a department or a functional expert. What if none of these seem interesting to you? How do we know which path to take? Today’s podcast is going to highlight what we need to redefine career success. 

Is this even a problem?

The other day, I noticed that my work for the last several years has been to shift the way that I work. From working using fear of failure or a desire for safety as a motivator to using impact and the ability to bring more of my full self to work as a motivator. 

It felt strange to be in a place where I genuinely don’t feel like there are any real problems. Where the drive to do comes more from love versus a place of fear. In a way, it was my redefinition of success that allowed me to still see results in terms of my business, corporate work, relationships and health but also not feel as stressed or worried as I used to feel. I’m hitting my goals, growing and loving everything more.

It almost felt too good to be true. This feeling of lightness and freedom. It feels a bit strange to not operate from a sense of fear – and most of the time, I’m working on thinking about who I want to be and what I want to learn – whether that is enjoying the process or figuring out how to deliver results better. I had to ask myself. Is this even a problem? 

No, it’s not. I’m focusing on how to develop greater trust/voice and sitting with a sense of commitment that this is for the long term and I’m getting better. That the way I’m doing it now is not a problem even if I work for my future. Even though I knew it wasn’t a problem, I still asked for coaching around this topic.

This is a common misconception of coaching or any kind of development work. We sometimes think that something has to be really wrong for us to receive coaching. What if your coaching helps you to reflect on and establish trust in your path? What if it allows you to continue to build confidence in your voice, direction and your strengths? I work with people who have had a lot of success so the question isn’t just what’s not working? Often, it’s also focused on what is working and let’s figure this next part out together.

Letting Go of Fear

I realized that what happens when we are feeling the shift into a new way of thinking, feeling and being is that the safety we seek is the safety of the known. 

You know what it looks like to work from a place of worry or stress. You know what it feels like to be motivated by not having enough time, money or resources. You know the fire that gets lit in your belly when you feel energized by anger at yourself or others.

Even if you know those things, is that the way you want to operate? Using the fuel of rage, resentment, shame or stress to light the path forward?

You might say no, that’s not what I want – but what do you do instead? How do you work if not from the paradigm of proving your worth or seeking status?

What do you hold onto when you let go of your past definition of success? The answer is a new definition of success.

Sometimes, we forget that we are still able to make choices in our lives. Our days are so full that we don’t give ourselves enough time to reflect on the choices we have made and where we want to go next. Just because we don’t have the answers to bigger questions like, “what’s your purpose in life” or “what gives you meaning” or “who do you want to be in 5 years?” doesn’t mean we don’t have any ideas.

It usually means that we haven’t had the time to reflect or we never asked ourselves these questions. Coaching gives you regular intervals for growing your capacity to answer those questions – the harder ones about what is the actual reason you work right now versus what you want it to be. It reconfirms your north star and inner compass.

When you have a north star guiding you, you can more easily know which direction to take when you are thinking about what is next for you. This north star is your definition of career success.

You can do this anytime. It’s never too late or early to redefine career success. What I have found most helpful are these 3 things. A process, willingness to let go and commitment.

A process helps you to understand yourself better.

I teach my clients a process to let go and begin again. Going deeper each cycle of career change and season they are in. The same work, over and over again gets you different and more rich results. They experience the process of expanding their vision of what’s possible, letting go of the beliefs they had, the way the world works or doesn’t work, who they think they are and what it means to be of service to themselves and other people. Then we begin again with their new definition of success. This is what you hold onto when you let go of the past. The same way that you have to let go of one hand in order for you to swing on the monkey bars to the next bar, you have to let something go to evolve.

Willingness to let go

This can be the hardest thing. There are so many things we hold onto. We want to know what’s next, but we will fight for the reasons why what we have is the best. This is one of the biggest things we hold onto. Our past. We think we’re not acknowledging how far we have come or how good our life is if we let go of the way things are today. That it’s all been a mistake or wrong if we are making any changes.

I want you to shift your perspective to think of your career as a plant. A plant is a natural thing that follows natural changes and growth. Your career will change and grow with or without you, but you can water it, change the soil, give it light, repot it, prune and cut it back. You can plant new seeds for growth or learn how to propagate from the current plant. Similar to caring for a plant, you have to say to yourself that you’re willing to cut some things off by pruning in order for the plant to thrive. You have to be willing to change the pot or even break the plant apart so new growth has a chance. 

Different plants need different conditions to thrive. Amount of sunlight, water, etc. You are the same. Your life has changed or you desire something different. This means that you need different conditions. This means that you have a different definition of success. What is success if not to create the conditions for yourself to grow, thrive and live your life fully? It is the same thing we do for our businesses – asking where we are and what we want next.

Ignoring that we’ve changed, our lives have changed and different decisions are on the horizon means that we’re not in the present moment. Instead of thinking of letting go as a one time decision, think of it as a process. You are always letting go. Why? Because without one hand free on the monkey bars of life, you will not be able to move forward with life’s natural flows.


This doesn’t mean that you must constantly change careers, functions or jobs. What it does mean is that you might have to be more committed to what success means to you now, than what you thought it meant to you five years ago. You have to be more committed to your own soul and spirit’s evolution, than comparing job titles to your peers. You have to be more committed to knowing that you are in a constant state of change and growth instead of asking others for validation that you’re doing enough.

Redefining career success may look like something extremely specific, like the ability to do a certain kind of work or to do it in a certain way – but beyond that it is the acknowledgement that you can have a life where you define success. Not others. You are committed to learning what YOUR definition of success means even if you don’t have the answer today. 

The easy route is to use what someone else has already defined, but you would lose out on the benefit of the exercise itself – which is to grow your own muscles of decision-making. Actively deciding what is the next best thing to do based on where you are, what you want to learn and who you want to be is a skill that you can use for the rest of your life.

When you redefine career success, you are learning a process that you will utilize each time you face new decisions and opportunities that cross your path. It is the work of your lifetime. I invite you to do it with me, in a place where we keep both your spirit and mind intact. Where we don’t forget that we are humans with real responsibilities and bodies to feed and nurture – even as we rediscover what your soul and spirit sounds, looks and feels like.

In our coaching together, we stay committed to deciding what life looks like on your own terms and living that path. When you are committed to that ideal, it doesn’t take long for your career to reconfigure itself to that ideal. You start to talk, walk and show up differently because you’ve spent enough time working through your doubts and hesitations. It’s more authentic to who you are in the moment to attend to your needs in the moment by redefining your success.

Don’t give up and if you need help, sign up for a coaching consultation today at https://mayempson.com/contact. We will take decades of indecision and condense the learnings into days and months so that you can have more clarity on what you want next, your purpose and how to actually feel re-energized about your work and life today.

That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.

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