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Redefining success as an entrepreneur

What is the end goal you’re really chasing in your business? Do you even know? And when’s the last time you paused to reflect on what that really means to you? Many entrepreneurs are chasing “success” but few have taken the time to define it for themselves. This article will highlight why redefining success as an entrepreneur is so important to actually building a thriving business that supports a fulfilling life.

Success: something everyone is chasing, but few have taken the time to define.

Google says success is “the achievement of an aim or purpose.” But do you know with absolute certainty what aim you are trying to achieve?

Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with high level CEOs that have created financially successful companies and come to me because they are downright miserable running them. The problem is that they spent decades sacrificing their values for an outdated definition of success. They come to me feeling completely unfulfilled, wanting to burn their business to the ground and start over. Redefining success is the FIRST piece of the work we do together to help them create a life and business that they truly love.

Here’s the thing… financial success affords you happiness at a surface level: a nice big home on the water for your family; a fancy boat to take your golf buddies onto; money to hire help around the house and free up time to frequent expensive restaurants.

But your financial success doesn’t solve your more important challenges

  • it doesn’t eliminate the bitterness you feel heading into work on Monday if your business isn’t aligned with your passion;
  • the arguments with your spouse after yet another 80 hour week if your work isn’t balanced with your life;
  • the disbelief that it’s been a decade since your last long vacation if you aren’t intentionally leveraging your freedom;
  • and the emptiness you feel from a lack of deep soul friendships if your work is taking over your life.

So, if we haven’t intentionally spent time redefining success… we might be moving farther and farther away from what we actually want without even realizing it…

redefining success as an entrepreneur by entrepreneur coach ana mcrae sitting in front of lake with mountains

In this article, I want to explain how humans (especially high achieving, ambitious entrepreneurs) form their definition of success, why it often leaves them dissatisfied when they achieve it, and why intentionally redefining success is critical to creating a life you truly love while running a thriving business.

For those of you that are new to my work, I’m Ana McRae, an entrepreneur coach for high performers who want more freedom, fulfillment, and financial abundance in life and business. I help ambitious entrepreneurs build, grow, and scale thriving businesses while living fulfilling lives through 1:1 coaching. If you’re looking for a coach that can help you not only 10X your business, but do so in a way that aligns with what you REALLY want in life, book a time to chat with me.  

Where does our definition of success come from?

Our personal definitions of success are often inherited from the people we look up to over the course of our lives.

Our parents, our role models, and our communities inform much of the way we perceive the world and our role in it. For better or for worse, we adopt their ways of looking at and thinking about the world, and (consciously or unconsciously) build lives that are eerily similar to those whom we surround ourselves with (hence why the 5 people you spend the most time with matter so much).

Little girls raised on small town farms might see success as being barefoot and pregnant stay at home moms to big families. Little boys brought up in affluent neighborhoods might see success as the scaling of a multi-million dollar business. These are, of course, sweeping generalizations, but the analogy still stands.

Related post: How To Find Your Purpose In Life 

redefining success as an entrepreneur

One of my clients spent 10 years building a multi-million dollar business aspiring to achieve his father’s perception of financial success only to become deeply unhappy.

Another client spent 8 years in leadership, securing promotion after promotion, only to change careers completely because she was miserable and had no time left to live her life

Another client spent her entire career leading dozens of thriving businesses, then giving it all up because she had a completely different passion and felt utterly unfulfilled in her current role

Here’s the problem:

When you’re brought up in a family that values X above all else, you build your life to make sure you achieve X. But at the end of the day, you’ve created a life you thought you should want, not one that is actually aligned with your own personal values.

Related post: How To Define Your Core Values

Behind the scenes of my story redefining success as an entrepreneur

My parents and grandparents grew up in Ukraine during the Cold War – a time of great political unrest and widespread famine. I was born a mere 3 years after it ended, and we moved to Canada 2 years later, with nothing but ‘a backpack and $1,000 to our name’. Growing up as a first generation immigrant under parents who had lived through hard times created deeply ingrained values of unwavering financial security driven by outstanding academic success. The expectation was to get perfect grades, get a high paying job, and stay there until you retire.

But somewhere in my adult life I realized those values weren’t mine.

I got perfect grades: I graduated university at the top of my class with a 4.2 GPA in 3 years instead of 4 while raising an infant. I got a high paying corporate job and promotion after promotion. I had the house with the white picket fence, the husband, the two kids, and the dog – all before the age of 23.

And I was miserable. I was working 60 hour weeks, with 3 hour commutes, and two little kiddos growing up at daycare.

I had achieved “success” and it left me wanting.

Related post: Are You Working On The Right Goals?

It took years of unlearning what I thought to be true about how to achieve success, before I discovered what I actually wanted out life. In fact, it wasn’t until I spent time redefining success, that I figured out what I actually wanted:

  • Time with my kids: more than an hour in the evenings
  • Freedom to travel: beyond the 2 week vacation
  • Genuine impact: work that made the world a better place
  • Financial abundance: without pay bands and glass ceilings

successful woman taking time for herself

To me, success wasn’t a fancy title, a corner office, or a million dollar home (although I spent a decent part of my career trying to secure those things).

Redefining success allowed me to focus on making money doing work I love and spending ample quality time travelling & making memories with my family.

And this is exactly why you’ll find me

  • writing this article from the beach on a Tuesday morning
  • taking a 90 min hike in the woods with my dog every single day
  • working 15-20 hours a week (max) and spending the rest of the time living my life
  • travelling for 5 months across the country with my kiddos
  • mountain biking, kayaking, snowboarding, hiking, dancing, crocheting, playing piano, and laughing INSTEAD OF checking my phone, working after dinner, or going to “the office” on the weekends

Related post: How To Figure Out What To Do With Your Life (And Actually Do It!)

These are the conversations we need to be having more of in high level circles when it comes to achieving success.

Redefining success beyond financial compensation.

Wealth, not as the be all end all, but as part of the bigger picture: supporting a life you actually love to live.

Because guess what? I wake up every single day freaking excited about the way I get to spend it. And that wasn’t the case when I was living my life in alignment with somebody else’s definition of success.

BECAUSE I spent time redefining success, I am fulfilled by my work and have built a thriving business that aligns with my values.

This is why I am so dang passionate about the work I do.

You are fully capable of running a thriving business AND living a life that you love.

You don’t have to sacrifice your happiness to achieve “success.” You can have your cake, and eat it too, when you get clear on what your vision for your life really is (and redefine “success” for yourself), take action in alignment with your vision (by getting out of your own way and tackling the mindset keeping you stuck), and invest in the support to hold you accountable to your full potential.

This is the work I do with my high level coaching clients: wildly ‘successful’ entrepreneurs who find themselves yearning for something more, whether that’s structuring their business differently to give them more freedom, or pivoting completely into something new. Redefining success is the first step to intentionally designing a life and business that fulfills you long term.

And the irony is that through this process, you actually quantum leap your financial success by focusing on something else altogether.

Related post: How to Build a Business and Life You Love

One client went from working 50 hours a week, unable to step away from her business, struggling in her relationship, and not having any fun, to working 15 hours a week, leading a self sufficient team, and spending her days adventuring/travelling, launching a new business idea, while in a thriving relationship.

Another client went from running a successful business by burning the candle at both ends, sacrificing his physical & mental health, and never taking a day off, to running an even more successful business working less than he ever has, making 99.8% of annual revenue in just EIGHT weeks, stepping into his leadership, expanding his team, taking multiple trips each quarter, and reigniting the passion he feels for the business he runs.

Another came to me when 10 years of leadership left her burnt out, overwhelmed, and deeply unhappy. Now she is travelling to places that have been on her bucket list forever, doing work she used to only dream of, building businesses she never thought she had the capacity to run, and spending her days in alignment with her values (long runs, visiting friends, reading books, and playing guitar).

What’s the common thread?

A point where each and every one of these ambitious individuals realized they deserved a thriving business AND a fulfilling life, and refused to settle for the circumstances they found themselves in right now.

The narrative around success is shifting. Gone are the days when a competitive salary or a profitable business were enough to keep us content. Especially as we navigate the effects of the pandemic, you may be starting to realize that you’ve been sacrificing parts of life that really matter to you for years… decades, even… all in pursuit of some arbitrary definition of success instilled by your parents and reinforced by society.

So, what do you do if you find yourself less than thrilled with the life you’re living or the business you’re running? How do you redefine success so that you can experience fulfillment?

Related post: How To Feel More Fulfilled In Life & Business

How to redefine success as an entrepreneur (reflection questions)

redefine success

Take some time to reflect on the following questions in order to achieve success and feel more fulfilled in life and business:

  • What is my current definition of success that I have operated from up until this point? Success is…
  • Where did this definition come from? In what ways is it being reinforced?
  • What is the benefit of operating from this definition? What is it costing me?
  • How does this definition align with what I actually value? In what ways is it not aligned?
  • What do I believe is the relationship between success and fulfillment? Is there an element of success that goes beyond financial compensation? What if my success actually depends on my fulfillment?
  • Knowing what I know now through my lived experience thus far, how do I want to define success? What do I want to believe about success (even if it might not feel true quite yet)?

Related post: How To Recommit To Your Goals

Get intentional about defining success for yourself. Disregard societal expectations and parental beliefs. Give yourself permission to discover what truly matters to you. And then build your life in alignment with that.

Redefining success through 1:1 coaching

What got you to this level of success is often the very thing holding you back from your next level.

Your beliefs about the world are so deeply ingrained in you that it’s impossible to separate them from facts without an objective perspective. Having a coach allows you to look at what you believe about success, entrepreneurship, impact, happiness, and what it takes to achieve all that so that you can see how your beliefs are affecting the actions you do or don’t take (and thereby the results you do or don’t see!)

Your next level self comes as a result of approaching the way you think and make decisions differently.

Your coach’s biggest role is to support you in achieving your goals in life and business – whatever those are for YOU.

If you’re ready to achieve success and create a life and business with more freedom, fulfillment, and financial abundance, let’s explore how I can support you with stepping into your full potential as an entrepreneur. Book a connection call and let’s discuss where you are, where you want to go, and what it could look like for us to partner together.

Related post: The ONE Thing That Will Grow Your Business 30X

redefining success as an entrepreneur

Success feels incredible… when it aligns with the things you really want for yourself.

But nobody can define those for you. So if you haven’t spent time intentionally redefining success for yourself, life and business might not feel great right now, and that’s okay.

Take some time to reflect on what you truly value, and what your definition of success really is, so that you can start moving in that direction.

And if you want support, you know where to find me.

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