Balance & Beyond Podcast
#9 Success will make us happy: The lie we must stop believing
We've all been sold a lie!
Be successful, climb the ladder, get the title, earn the money, and have the house and the cars. Once you’ve done all that, you’ll be happy and fulfilled.
I spent much of my life chasing success in the mistaken belief that it would bring fulfilment. I learned the hard way that you can have all the success in the world, yet without fulfilment, it feels shallow, hollow and empty. To top it all off, I felt guilty because I had no right to be unhappy when I was so successful.
If you’re a woman who feels like you’re constantly striving for the next big thing - a title, salary or renovation - but still feel empty, you’re not alone.
In this episode, we explore why so many women appear successful on the outside, yet feel anything but on the inside. We’ll look at the conditioning that has led us to believe success is only about material possession and external validation and how to shift our focus to finding true fulfilment.
Join us as we share how to redefine success and discover how focusing on personal fulfilment can bring us the success we truly desire while transforming our lives in unimaginable ways.
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- Why chasing achievements feel so good, yet can quickly become a prison we can’t escape from
- The real reason we sabotage our success
- Where our existing definition of success comes from, and why it no longer serves women
- What shifts when you focus on achieving fulfilment, and how this unlocks more balance and joy
- My journey of making this transition and the difference in how it’s made me feel
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INTRO: Welcome to Balance and Beyond, the podcast for ambitious women who refuse to accept burnout as the price of success. Here, we’re committed to empowering you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve true balance, where your career, relationships and health all thrive, and where you have the power to define success on your own terms. I honour the space you’ve created for yourself today, so take a breath, and let's dive right in…
Today, I want to share with you a key distinction on two words that are thrown around a lot in our world. And these are words that I used to use interchangeably, you could call somewhat flippantly, but I now have a much, much deeper understanding of what these words really mean. The first word is one I spent most of my life chasing. It was something I was conditioned for and thought it was what I wanted. And yet, this other word is what I was really searching for. But, I didn't know it. And if I know what I know now, I guarantee you I would have done things differently. What are those two words? They are success and fulfilment.
Success is an outcome, it's an accomplishment. It's something that's external to you. It's something that you do. Our high achievers love success. It's like, “Yes, a goal to chase.” However, success is also an accomplishment or an outcome. You can pass, you can fail because you can measure it, and we've been brought up in an era where we've relied on others to define that success. Often that success has come in material terms. It comes in terms of houses, or goals, or wealth, or even how you look where you are on the corporate ladder: your job, your title, your salary.
And, as we've grown up, we've got validation for achieving those pieces of success. Whether it's the medals, or the grades, or the praise from parents, thinking that that will make us happy. When we are successful, then we'll be happy. When we achieve something, when we do something, yes, we're successful, we've made it. This is what life is for.
In contrast, fulfilment is a state of being. It's not something that you can tick off a list and say, "Oh, I'm fulfilled.” It's something that's internal to you. It's something that you are. It can't be gifted by somebody else, and it can't be taken away. I can't hand you this stick and say, "Hey, it's the fulfilment stick”, because it's unique to every individual. Everyone has a different definition of "fulfilment”, and fulfilment, ultimately, is this deep sense of personal satisfaction and contentment. It can be something that's difficult to describe if you've never really felt it, but it's like, "Yes, it just feels amazing!”
The challenge is I thought, and you may be in the same boat, that if I chased success, if I got the house, and the title, and I climbed the ladder, that it would bring fulfilment. Because that was the lie that I had been sold. I was told, "Right, you can get all the success you want, and then you'll be happy.” You get this financial goal, and then you feel free. Whereas, when you get success without fulfilment, any success that you end up having feels hollow and shallow and empty, and then you find yourself feeling guilty because you're miserable.
Yet on the outside, you have everything you ever wanted. You're successful! So what the heck? "I'm meant to feel happy.” “This was meant to be.” “This is why I chased, this is why I did all those hours.” “This is why I grinded.” “It was because I was meant to feel great.”
Now, to be clear, I'm not saying I don't want you to be successful. I want you to have abundance, I want you to have freedom, I want you to have beautiful houses, and holidays, and all the things that make you happy. However, I have found that if your definition of success can become the journey of fulfilment. Then when you enjoy, and you have those material successes and rewards, that it's going to be that much more meaningful. It becomes the icing on the cake, because we're not just chasing success at all costs, or we're not chasing success with sacrifice.
Success is an outcome. “I have to do stuff, I have to grind, I have to drive, I have to meet goals, I have to smash those goals out of the park.” I have to under-promise and over-deliver. Then there's this constant worry of failing. “Set another goal.” “Try harder, do more, better, faster, more, more, more, more, more, more, more.” Because if you stop, then you're not successful.
If your worth is based on how successful you are, that somehow you can measure. Well, then there's never any space to stop, or to be present, or to sit still or to soak everything in. This is the moment you get close to achieving a goal, you move it. I'll put in a new one. I'm like, “Yay, I got a pay rise!” “Oh, no, look, my bills have now increased.” “Oh, yay, I've done this!” “Okay, well, now our living costs have gone up.” “Yay, I've got this!” “Well, now I want an investment property!” “Now, I want a portfolio.” “Now I need to do this for the kids.”
And so we lose ourselves in this quest for better, faster, more. We see this all the time, whether it’s a wonderful strategy, or a technique we do for ourselves, and it's called self sabotage. So many people lose it. They lose it all. They burn it all down because they decide it wasn't worth it. They've lost themselves in the process. How many wealthy people do we hear of who die alone and miserable And they can't take it with them And they wonder what was the point? They sold their soul in the name of success, and have been left wanting.
"Where did all this come from?" Is a fascinating reflection on our recent history. And I don't know about you, but I grew up in the 80s. And the 80s became a decade all about materialism. We'd had the freewheeling 70s, that was all about personal growth, and those kind of hedonistic years. And yet, after swinging so far one way, that was a lot more about fulfilment, it was all about the vibe and it was about feeling great and about some other pills and whatever else. But that was the freewheeling 70s. And yet, it was almost like we swung too far one way and, in a bid to correct the balance, the 80s went right the other way. It became all about success. It became all about the Wall Street working girl. It became all about, "Women can do it all.” And that was the generation that we were raised in.
We were told, "You can do it all, you can do anything!” We watched our parents get swept up in this vibe of money. Markets were great, and people were making hand over fist in the stock market, and it was all about wealth and greed, along with shoulder pads and big hair. It was all about “Big!” It was all about “More!” So is it any wonder, growing up in that environment, part of that was almost sort of embedded in us? “Okay, well, success is better, faster, more.” It's 20% returns on the stock market, it's paying off your house really quick, it's about bonuses. But we're so lost in this quest for success.
What I see happen time and time again is women don't know how to find fulfilment. One of the key reasons is they don't know why, they don't know who they are. Success is very easy to benchmark on. “Oh okay, well, I should live in this house, and I should look this way, and I should do this for work, and I should want to climb.” You see a whole stack of "should” there. But fulfilment is very, very personal. And if you are lost, and you don't know who you are, if you've become lured by the trappings of success, will you continue to look outside yourself for guidance?
"All right, well, how should I feel fulfilled?” No, this is an internal journey and it's unique to you. You've got to learn to access that intuition, that sense of self-direction, that voice inside you that says, yes, this feels great. And that's what fulfilment is. It's a feeling. But if your feelings are numb and you're frozen, because the only thing that you ever really feel is fear and overwhelming guilt, we turn everything down. And when you turn down those emotions, you turn down the intuition, you turn down the joy.
No wonder it's really difficult to ask the question: Who are you? What actually brings you joy? And a very, very important piece of this puzzle, becomes giving yourself permission what it is you want. I do some interesting exercises with those in my world and of you know, asking for what you want, and actually giving yourself permission to want it, whether it's a brownie or a dream house by the water, or, you know, sitting in the sunshine of the morning, you cut it up with somebody you love.
But we strangle what we want because we tell ourselves we can't have it. Ultimately, we don't think we're worthy of it. We feel guilty for wanting it. We feel selfish. And ultimately we strangle what we want with, "Well, I need to know how, I need to know when, I need to know how much it’s going to cost, and I would like a colour coded timeline of when that thing is going to arrive.” We strangle the life out of it. So, is there any wonder that it's easier to chase success, when fulfilment feels like this nebulous thing that we can't get our hands on?
And yet it's something that we all crave. It's something that when you find a fulfilment, and especially when you can line up your work and you can ensure that every day you go to a place where your fulfilment is being met, and usually that fulfilment comes from a place of joy, of contentment, of gratitude, of making an impact, of feeling like you're making the world a better place by your presence. Maybe for you it's freedom. Time freedom, location freedom, freedom to do what you do, freedom to love who you love, to be able to be in the moment.
You will see why, when you are very obsessed with your to-do list, and got to do this, and the overwhelm, and this is next, and this is next. Fulfilment feels like a pipe dream, and yet without it, we are empty. So fulfilment is something that you must learn to cultivate, first and foremost, by working out what you want. The journey that I had to go on was a quest for fulfilment.
When I sold what I thought was “the forever house”, I had to do a lot of soul searching about what I really wanted, because I thought that house was it. That was the house, that was the two kids. I was in the C suite, I was on boards, I had an Asia Pacific role. I ticked all the boxes, but it was empty. It wasn't enough, and it forced me to ask myself the question, and I've continued to ask myself this question on a very regular basis, “When is it enough?” “What is enough for me?” “What is enough from a financial freedom perspective, or a goal perspective, or a stuff perspective, or an experiences perspective?” And the answer is, well, it's never enough because like you, I'm a born high achiever. I continue to move towards those goals.
So, as part of that process of selling my house, and really having kind of an ego death, a part of me died and I got reborn into this new version of me. I decided that, rather than being here for stuff and success, I was here for freedom. I wanted to live a life on my own terms, I wanted to shed the judgement of others. I wanted to step into my own power. That was what made me feel fulfilled.
And then my purpose has evolved to help others find their freedom, most importantly the freedom as defined by them, to find their own personal fulfilment, because that's where freedom lies. When you are on your path, when you are doing what you are meant to do here, when everything you do makes you feel amazing, when you wake up and are able to say I love my life. Yeah, you can have sick kids and yeah, you can have a bad day, but on the whole to me, I will feel fulfilled, whether I'm living in a castle or living out of a backpack, because I know that that is something innate within me that I have now cultivated.
And I have cultivated circumstances in my life to line up to that fulfilment. Cause I still want material things. I have two children. They're expensive, but I have found a very, very strong correlation with the more I focus on my own fulfilment. The more I walk my path, the more I am me, the more I do what makes me feel good and content and I can wake up and say, yes, like this is what I'm here for. And I help those closest to me do that, whether it's my family, my friends, my clients the more I'm able to tap into these feelings and the success is coming with that momentum.
Yes, I have goals, but I am increasingly focusing less on them, and letting them go, and putting them out there and saying, “You know what? If I'm going to just focus on my own fulfilment, I'm going to focus on showing up every day as me.” “I'm going to focus on finding my own freedom” And, in my case, part of my purpose in helping others find freedom is to share my journey. It's to share what I know. As an example, I find fulfilment in this podcast, in coming up with the content, in the miracles that happen in my world, about what lands in my social media feeds, about what books I happen to be reading, about the conversations that I'm having and whether anybody listens to this or not doesn't really matter.
Because I have done this, because it feels like the right thing to do for me. And I know that in doing this for me, in doing this with the right intent, in doing this with the desire to share my journey, hoping that it might save somebody else some pain and some suffering. Well, ironically, the downloads are flowing, but I'm not doing it for the numbers. I'm not doing it so that I can achieve another purpose. I'm doing it for my own fulfilment. I can't pass or fail at finding fulfilment. I can't do that wrong, and there's no reason to beat myself up, because every misstep or every challenge or every quote unquote, failure becomes another step on the pathway to fulfilment. And because now my growth is part of this quest for freedom. Well, when I fall, okay, buckle up, my friend, this is a chance to grow. This is obviously a muscle that you don't have!
When fulfilment becomes your focus, success becomes a game. It matters less if you pass or fail. This becomes all about you! Now, it's not always easy to do. It takes inner work. You've got to delve into your shadows, you've got to shed layers of conditioning, but I promise you it's worth it!
I want you to think today about, “What does fulfilment mean to you?” “What shift could you make, if you were to decide that your success is now measured in your fulfilment? I want you to have a life that you love. I want you to feel good. I want you to love waking up every day, and if you can understand what fulfils you, it's going to make it that much easier. It matters to me. Here’s to more fulfilment and, in turn, an easier life of love, laugh and success.
OUTRO: Thank you for joining us today on the Balance and Beyond Podcast. We're so glad you carved out this time for yourself. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend who might need to hear this today. And if you're feeling extra generous, leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice would mean the world. If you’re keen to dive deeper into our world, visit us at www.balanceinstitute.com to discover more about the toolkit that has helped thousands of women avoid burnout and create a life of balance, and beyond. Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next time on the Balance & Beyond Podcast.
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