When I first became pregnant, I was told that getting married, settling down and putting off school and work would make me a successful mother.
As women—and especially as mothers—we are told what success is, we are told who is allowed to be successful, and we are told when we can and cannot work toward success. It’s exhausting listening to so many people tell us what progress looks like.
So what did I do? I sat down after giving birth, reflected on my life so far, and started making some massive changes.
Those changes included confronting the demons in a horrible marriage, finishing school on my terms, raising my newborn in a healthy environment, and doing all the things that made me feel happy and prosperous.
It took five years of hard emotional and mental work for me to figure out the five things that defined my own success. My mindset had to change in a variety of ways, too.
Here are the five steps I took toward success — perhaps they will help you begin the journey toward your own defined state of success, too.
For me, this meant facing my ex-husband and demanding marriage counseling and therapy. Our relationship was not good. He was controlling, demanding, abusive … and when I gave birth to my darling son Fox, I finally saw all of that. My ex-husband opposed the process and was even worse to me, so I left after he stormed out.
This situation was unhealthy for me mentally and emotionally. For you, it might mean you need to fix unhealthy eating habits, or stop dwelling on the past, or denying yourself to heal from postpartum depression. Whatever your unhealthy habit or relationship with another is, you need to confront it—or it will hold you back from everything good.
I’m serious when I say you need to vision board your life. Before you think, “I’m too spontaneous a person for that to work,” let me say I am, too. The struggle I’ve had with getting used to the idea of creating a vision board or roadmap is I want to live life freely and without bars, but that doesn’t help me retire down the road—nor will it help you.
Giving your life a little direction is great for the spontaneous and free-spirited. We all have goals anyway, right?
Here is what you do, whether you’re going to use Pinterest or a journal:
Short-term goals can even be things like signing up for college, paying off debt under $6K, or getting you and your kids involved in group activities to beat some of the isolation you might be experiencing.
Whatever goals you set, the critical part is that you set them and create a roadmap so you can easily navigate your free-spirited self towards achieving those goals.
There’s nothing that makes me feel more successful than knocking out my to-do list or goal list!
How does one measure happiness? This part of your journey in becoming successful can be difficult to track.
Even when we are at peak levels of satisfaction, we may feel a little unhappy because of one thing or another. So, my suggestion is to get a bit more science-ish about it. According to Psychology Today, your happiness levels can be tracked through behaviors.
I started journaling my positive and negative behaviors each day and then, at the end of the week, would look at which behaviors I exhibited most.
When I had this really awful client last year, I could feel myself acting angrily toward my friends and family because I had no other outlet to get rid of that negative behavior. I would get annoyed and irritated easily with my son, and as a result, he was also angry and irritated.
After tracking my behavior with this client during a week of direct contact vs. non-direct contact, I could tell that it was literally because I could not deal with them. I was an angry person because of this client, and I needed to change my circumstances. In short, I let them go, found new right-fit clients, and am much happier.
When it comes to success, we know we’re successful because we’re generally happy. If you’re feeling like you’re exhibiting less-than-ideal behavior, start tracking that behavior with a simple journal, or even use your planner. It’s a simple way to resolve negativity and begin walking on sunshine again.
As you grow as a leader and hustler, you need to begin to use your time more wisely. How you define that, again, is according to your goals and your needs.
An easy tip for being great at spending your time wisely is doing what you’re really great at and giving the baton to others who are great at the things you’re not. Delegate. Delegate. Delegate. Your time is precious!
This is the most important one. Remember the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy?” It’s the most accurate thing in the world. Our behaviors directly affect every single person around us.
Whenever there was a weird vibe in my house growing up, we all knew that something was wrong with one of the people living there and we needed to do our part in rectifying the situation.
Kids are incredibly perceptive and have a deep connection with their parents. If your kids and partner are drudging around the house and are distinctly irritable, unhappy and frustrated with you—it’s a sign something needs to be fixed.
Some signs your family’s happiness might be out of whack are: you are overworking yourself, passing over someone’s needs, or you’re unable to have an in-depth conversation with a family member. When it comes to children, this would be classified as your ability to sing with them, read a book, and play.
As a rule of thumb for myself, I do daily check-ins with Fox. I’ll say things like “I love you” often and ensure he’s happy by literally asking him. When kids are experiencing any emotion, they will tell you. These days, Fox asks, “Mom, you happy?” I’ll reply, “Yes, I am! Are you?” Simple questions like this to our younger family members make check-ins easier.
In the end, how you choose to define your success is up to you. Sometimes success means you woke up and got dressed, other times it means you were supermom and perfectly balanced work and life today.
Following these five steps, for me, has made me feel and be more successful today than I ever have in my life so far. The world around you is bursting at the seams with possibility, and you have all the power you need to take the right actions in creating a life filled with success.
Seize your moment, and take what’s yours!
Sarah Bettencourt has spent the last eight years conquering the digital social world and developing ways for small to medium-sized brands overcome marketing obstacles through creative ideas and strategies. She runs Mother of Marketing to rescue 9–5 workers from the chains of their desk jobs and help them understand how to “break the wheel” by realizing their potential and transform into a sustainable brand. Mother of Marketing offers the core class, “Idea to Brand,” group/one-on-one coaching, and customized education plans based on an individual or company’s needs.
Her son Fox was diagnosed with a severe speech disability in late 2016 and said “mama” for the first time only a year ago, and this year was diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism. He’s her little dragon, and he will tell you the same.
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