Here’s what success looks like for me:
It's Monday morning and I’ve been up since before 6 am. I have already meditated, journaled, helped my husband Jonathan get ready for work, and dropped our daughter Leah off at school. Now I'm jamming my favorite Pandora station, and writing. I work until 2 pm, then turn my attention back to my family. I prepare a nutritious and (hopefully) delicious home-cooked meal, play with Leah, get her ready for bed, then spend time connecting with Jonathan. I spend about 30 minutes checking and responding to emails, and organizing for the following day in the KanbanFlow project management tool. Finally, I read a book or watch a show (or maybe do a moon salutation) then head to bed by 10.
This is not an idealized scenario of how I would like to live my life. This is how I am actually living, right now. Like everybody, I have days where everything doesn’t go as I would like – but for the most part, I live my life without scrambling or feeling stressed. I have enough time for my family, for my friends, for my work and for myself. In other words, I have made space for what I truly love.
That is how I define success, and I achieved it by systematically pursuing a vision that I defined for myself over a year ago. I would like to share the specific steps I took to get to where I am now, in the hopes that it might also help you define success in your life. Defining your version of success is the first step towards making it happen.
For a long time, my own vision of success was pretty standard issue. I happily worked 50, 60, 70 hours a week and I was very focused on making lots of money just because, well, that’s what we all want, right? After my daughter was born, though, I began to rethink my definition of success. I had planned on going back to work after six weeks, but my hiatus ended up lasting six months. Spending time with Leah became my top priority. She was growing up so fast; I didn’t want to miss those precious moments. When I did resume work, it was on a part-time basis because the time away had made me realize how many other beautiful things I wanted to do besides running on that hamster wheel that I used to take for granted. I finally decided that I didn't have the energy or desire to climb back on; it was bringing me too much stress and anxiety, too little money for my trouble, and I didn't feel like I was making an impact on the world. But what were my alternatives? Recognizing that I was no longer sure about what I wanted led me to…
Step 1: What do you want?
I sat down and wrote out a list of all my desires – and I mean all of them. From the depths of me, with no judgment, I made a list of all the things I wanted, hoped for, aspired to. I wrote and wrote. Sometimes I changed my mind and rewrote. For instance, early on I remember writing down that I wanted to have 50% more clients, grow my business by 20% every year, and have a strong business plan in place. A couple of days later, I reviewed those notes and found them completely uninspiring. (They still do nothing for me!) I started over, writing that I wanted to establish a sophisticated brand and recruit ideal clients that appreciated, needed and “got” what I had to offer. I wrote that I wanted to build relationships and build community. It took me a good two months to create a document that finally felt like it expressed the real me. After scrambling, stressing and working hard for a long time, it was a little embarrassing to admit that I wasn't sure what I wanted. But better late than never!
Play around with making your own list. I recommend doing this right now. You might get it in one try, but give yourself enough time to come up with what feels true and right.
Step 2: Take radical action.
That doesn't mean “change everything in your life,” but it does mean be ready to change important things to get at the root of a problem or to make room for what matters to you. In my case, topping my list of things I wanted was starting two new business ventures. I had always dreamed about being a serial entrepreneur. I also knew I wanted to stop feeling like a small beans act and turn my marketing business into a real firm with team members. Eventually, I had to face the fact that achieving those goals was going to require dropping two long-time clients. As any freelancer can tell you, it’s great to have long-time clients that help pay the bills – but these clients took up so much of my time, I didn't have enough left for more fulfilling work with other clients, or for getting going on these bigger plans that I had already delayed long enough.
Radical action clears the way for more action. Once I made room, I kept going. I created a list of ideal clients I would pursue, and started calling them. I refreshed my branding and chose a niche to focus on. I beefed up my online marketing. I started to send out a newsletter every week to my email list. I started going to networking events, taking public speaking gigs, and teaching workshops. I met with people one-on-one and asked for referrals. I took imperfect action every single day, and eventually those actions began generating positive outcomes. I remember a day this past June when I updated the language on my homepage to include more about serving clients in the health and wellness industry. Suddenly I got a call from a potential client in that field who said they’d had my contact info for two years but finally decided to call me now. They have been an ongoing client ever since. I would never have set these events in motion if I hadn’t taken radical action to make room.
What radical action do you need to take to make room for yourrue desires, so they can ignite and burn? Take some time to write down possible big changes you could make, even if they seem scary.
Step 3: Shift your mindset.
Dropping those clients had consequences: suddenly I wasn't making any money (I mean nothing). I was feeling the hurt. Naturally I kept doubting my decision, wondering if I had made some huge mistake. “Who do you think you are?” I asked myself. “Some big shot, going to magically make all your dreams come true?!” I was seriously worried. I let myself feel those feelings, but I didn't let myself dwell on them for too long. Whenever I caught myself arguing inside about my “inevitable failure,” I countered those arguments in my journal, and kept believing in myself.
One thing that helped me stay on track and gain confidence was creating and reciting daily affirmations. These are powerful phrases that you can create or borrow and either listen to or recite to yourself on a regular basis in order to change the limiting thoughts and patterns that may be stopping you from achieving your goals and staying on track. For instance, one of the affirmations I repeat to myself at the beginning of every day, during my morning journaling time, is: “I am committed to my goals and I take the time to stay focused.” This helps tremendously, motivating me to take action despite doubt and fear. I still listen to and read my affirmations out loud every day.
You can download a copy of my affirmations here to help you get started: AFFIRMATIONS PDF LINK. However, it’s up to you to figure out what will help you get into the right mindset for dealing with the consequences of radical change and accepting setbacks, while still sticking to your plan for achieving the goals you have set. Having faith in yourself will help you with Step 4…
Step 4: Be consistent.
I kept working. I followed through on my plans and commitments. Sometimes, when you don’t see results right away, it’s easy to feel like you should try something different. It’s definitely helpful to ask questions and acknowledge mistakes, but if you only stick with a plan for a month before changing it, you’ll never know if that plan might have worked for you. You have to apply a set of tactics for long enough either to see some results, or to be sure that you gave it a fair shot. How much time will obviously vary depending on the project, but if you are really trying a new strategy, be prepared to give it a good six months before throwing in the towel.
I stayed consistent and kept up my faith that things would start turning around. In January of 2014, I was making very little money; by June I was making my target monthly goal and earning a full-time income working part-time. It only took six months for me to get past the hardest part of the transition, but a few months can seem like a long time when you’re in the middle of it. Being consistent keeps you focused on the goal, so that it doesn't seem like a far-off daydream. Nor does consistency stop when you begin achieving your goals. Every day, I do what I plan out for myself – and I'm still raising the bar on myself every day too.
To stay connected with your mission and your passion, stay consistent. For some people, this might mean creating a 90-day action plan, detailing all of the specific weekly actions you need to take – and then, at the end of that 90 days, creating a new detailed 90-day plan. For others, it might mean getting an accountability partner or coach. The important thing is to let your faith in what you uniquely have to offer drive and motivate you.
Step 5: Get support.
Nobody goes it alone. I realized that if I wanted to take my business to this new level, I would need help. At first, that just meant relying on the people who were already in my life. It meant asking my husband for extra help at home, or calling my friends when I needed to vent. I am lucky to have this base of support. Once my business was bringing in consistent cash, I was also able to hire a marketing coordinator, a business coach, and reliable care for my daughter when necessary. (I am also a big believer in self-care, so a body worker and an essential oil dealer are part of my support system too. If I don’t give myself the care and nurturing I love and deserve, that would mean I did all this for nothing!)
Make a list of the kinds of support you want and need. Next to each, write down the name of a person that could help you, or that you could hire. Figure out how much this will cost! Having a real number will help you get past all the scary guessing and wondering and worrying. Then you can focus on how to create the money you need to get the support you deserve.
I invite you to try Step 1. See where it takes you! Once you pour out your feelings and discover what you really want, I’m betting there is no way you will just continue along on the same path. Instead, you will feel compelled to create your own paradigm for success.
Are you ready to make that shift, even if it feels uncomfortable at first? Are you ready to make space for what you truly love? What does success look like for you?
Let's have a Conversation
Rubina Cohen is a mom, wife, serial entrepreneur, a self-proclaimed meditation junkie and a "warrior". She is on a mission to help women generate big impact and a generous income by discovering and speaking from their GENIUS. She blogs about the #crazyawesomelife and how other women can live one too. To learn more about Rubina, click here.