The 5 'Problems' With Success That Hold Us Back

01/20/2016 04:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Source: Michaela Ravasio/Stocksy

Success is a fascinating paradox; we can be all-consumed by our quest to achieve it without even fully comprehending what 'it' is.

Striving for success and improvement is in the very essence of our human nature; but every single day I meet ambitious, hardworking women who feel they have done everything 'right' to be successful in their careers, and yet still find themselves asking, 'is this IT?!'

Perhaps you can also relate to the frustration of feeling like you have ticked all the boxes, put in the hours, made personal sacrifices... yet there remains that niggling voice asking; 'what is this all even for?' On paper, everything might look great and we feel silly for complaining; yet something, somehow is missing. We yearn for greater personal meaning and fulfilment; a 'something more' for ourselves.

So what's our problem?

1) We simply don't know what success means to us

The number one problem with success is that amongst all the effort of 'doing' we forget to stop, pause and ask ourselves,

"What does success actually mean to me?"

It is so very easy to get caught up in what society, the media, or our family and friends believe success to be. However, until we gain this clarity for ourselves, we are shooting at a target that we cannot see; confused as we reach what we thought was the finish line, only to feel that we are instead at a new crossroads.

This was the exact position I found myself in a few years ago. I too, had done everything 'right'. I had achieved the good grades, went to a great university, got a First Class Honors Degree, landed a fantastic job and by all accounts was pretty "successful" by my mid twenties. So why didn't I feel successful?

Naturally, I decided that there must be something wrong with me. I fell into the trap of constant comparisons with other people and worried mercilessly about being 'good enough'. My answer was to put in longer hours, feeling stressed up to my eyeballs that everyone else seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing.

It was a good dose of burn out that finally made me reflect:

-What did I really want in my life and work?

-What motivates me?

-What fulfills me?

It turned out that I didn't actually want the same things as everyone I was comparing myself to.  In fact, I didn't care about the same things. This meant that I could finally let go of the comparisons and other people's agendas. (And breathe).

2) We are too busy chasing our success instead of designing it

Once I became crystal clear on what success meant to me, I could calmly, purposefully and excitedly just focus on working towards my goals, on my terms.

It really is that simple.  We can feel stuck struggling for the right answers to achieve the success that we crave, but the point we are missing is that we just aren't asking ourselves the right questions.

As soon as we take responsibility to define what success means to us we can start to shape our life and work on our own terms. The point is that the only version of success that matters is your own personal one.


3) We worry that striving for success is 'selfish'

Many women I meet worry that it might in some way be selfish to want more, or to put themselves first. But the really amazing thing about embracing 'success by design' as your mantra, is that when you are happy and fulfilled and working in alignment with your passions everyone around you benefits. Why? You are more inspired, more productive and more willing to go above and beyond because you are doing the work that really lights you up.

Have you ever noticed the difference between getting home from a gruelling and stressful day when you seem to crawl in through the front door, versus the days when you have worked in an area you are passionate about, and feel high as a cloud to the point that you pretty much skip home? Trust me when I say that everyone else around you notices this too.

It is not selfish to want to find personal meaning and fulfilment in the work you do; it is in fact a disservice to yourself and others if you are not pursuing your passion and purpose and having the impact you are capable of in the world around you.

4) We are scared of our own success

Yes, really. The very nature of achieving great success means that we are stretching ourselves outside of our comfort zones, and change of any kind is something that we naturally resist.

I've heard so many women say that they don't know what their passion is, or what they really want. In reality, they've known all along to some degree or another; it just takes finding the courage to admit it so that we can take the first step towards making it happen.

5) We don't celebrate the success we already have

So many of us jump from one thing to another and no sooner have we hit a milestone we are onto the next; barely pausing for breath let alone recognising the achievement. If it feels to you that there is always 'one more thing' to go after, or one more box to tick before you can celebrate your success, then you are allowing yourself to get caught up in the chase, and you are postponing your happiness and sense of fulfilment to an elusive future date.

Ready to start designing your version of success?

• Ask yourself; 'What does success actually mean to me, and where in my life am I already successful? How can I learn from what is going well to fast-track my results this year?

• Reflect on the ways you may have been 'chasing' your success to date, by getting caught up in the busyness trap. What small, simple shifts in your approach, working hours or 'me-time' could make all the difference for things to feel more on your terms?

• Recognise the bigger impact you could have if you aligned your work to your passion areas. This doesn't necessarily mean overhauling everything; how can you seek out opportunities in your existing role to do more of what you love?

• Let go of other's agendas; trust that you know what is right for you. This will streamline your focus as well as your energy.

• Put a dent in your fear. Assign a deadline for that first courageous step towards your 'non negotiable' goal and prove to yourself what is possible when inspired action is the only option.

• Celebrate every success in your life today -- big and small so that you can start to focus your mind on attracting more opportunities your way.

Holly MacCue
Career Success Coach