Defining your own success requires an end to comparison. Not only that, defining your own success requires that you work out what a successful year, a successful business or a successful life (!) means to YOU. Because, newsflash, YOU get to make this decision. That’s not something you learn at school, unfortunately!

Success in your 30s doesn’t have to look like career, marriage & kids – you can define your own success

I’m talking from a place of knowing how it feels when you don’t define your own success… In my 20s, I was working in London, commuting every day from outside London for up to 2h15 each way. I spent the weekends recovering, there were many, many tears, and I constantly felt like I wanted to escape. I spent 10 years in a cycle of working until I basically snapped. Then going travelling for a month or two. Then coming back and getting another job for a year or 18 months… and then the cycle would start again.

At the time, nobody told me – and I had no clue myself – that I didn’t have to work in London. I didn’t have to have a high-flying career. And it’s ok to have vastly different goals in life to your friends. That pressure in your 20s is immense. Getting a job with prospects, finding a partner, buying a house, getting married and having 2.4 kids, then going back to work and getting on with your high-flying career etc. I’ve always known it wasn’t for me. But I felt like I was weird and that felt quite lonely, and I felt guilty for not being “normal”. I just squashed these feelings and got on with it, with a heavy heart and a LOT of inner turmoil.

What makes you happy?

I look back and wish there had been a role model to show me it’s ok to not want those things you’re “supposed” to want. I’d never considered that to be happy you have to actually think about what makes you happy and then do that. It seems so obvious. But we’re all stuck in our routines, and life is so busy that in fact I don’t believe many people at all are considering what makes them happy! When was the last time you considered whether what you do every day is making you happy in the long term? Do we make ourselves busy intentionally so that we don’t have the time to think about whether we are happy or not?

In 2015, I started working for myself because I needed to escape the London 9-5 yet again, and I couldn’t afford to go travelling this time. Freelance editing was supposed to be a stopgap while I decided what I wanted to do next. It turned out to be the best accidental decision I’ve made in my working life. I’ve now worked for myself for much longer than I’ve ever worked for anyone else and I’ve not yet felt the need to escape! Beginning in 2017, I also trained as a coach, and now I balance my freelance editing work with lifecoaching from my home office in Worthing.

Building my new life as a lifecoach in Worthing, Sussex

When I first started to work for myself, I’d still never sat down and asked what I really want from life. Defining your own success was still not something I was aware of. However, during a Christmas staycation by the sea in Dorset, my partner (who, incidentally, I met while on one of my escapes abroad!) and I found ourselves wishing we lived on the coast.

We lived in Bedfordshire at the time – about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK! My partner had had a paragliding accident earlier that year and had broken his leg very badly. This meant we were both in the mindset of embracing life more than we used to. Anyway, 2 weeks after Christmas, our house in Bedfordshire was on the market. We’d also driven for miles along the Sussex coast looking for a new place to call home. And we’d decided that we were moving to Worthing. It was the best decision we’ve ever made.

And I think that’s really the whole point of defining your own success, it just feels right. There’s no “pushing/hustling” when it’s not the right time for you; there’s no working towards goals that aren’t really your own. It’s really important, therefore, to stop comparing yourself to other people. Each one of us has different hopes, dreams and goals. By comparing yourself or evaluating your success using someone else’s measure, you’ll miss out on your own joys and pleasures.

A change of perspective

Even after we made this move, by other people’s (society’s?) standards I felt I was failing. I earn less than I did when I had a “proper” job. I can’t afford a house in London. I’m unmarried and have no children. It was only when I asked myself what success meant to me that I realised I was already living my dream life. I live a 10-minute walk from the sea. I have a flexible career working for myself which means that I can (and I do) take time off to see family and friends regularly. And I earn enough to go on adventurous holidays to far-flung places! What a different perspective!

Are you defining your own success or using society’s definition?

So, I’d encourage you to think about what your own hopes, dreams and goals look like. You might find – like I did – that you’re closer to your dream life than you think, when you stop assuming that your hopes and dreams must be the same as everyone else’s. We’re all different, and that’s a good thing – so we need to stop following the crowd and start defining your own success. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out my Simply Thriving Entrepreneurs series – I hope to share stories from women who have a thriving business and who are also taking care of themselves as a priority; these women will share their tips of course, but I hope it will also inspire you to carve your own path.

If you’re struggling to know what it is you really want, give me a shout and I can share some tools that might help you. You could also read my blog on how you can make your life feel simpler, and I also share tips on my newsletter so please do sign up below if you are sick of feeling overwhelmed and just want to have more pure and simple fun in your life.

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