188: Defining True Success on Your Own Terms | Tanya Dalton
Tanya Dalton quote on success
September 1, 2020   |   Episode #:

188: Defining True Success on Your Own Terms

In This Episode:

How does a ‘success addiction’ sound? It seems that a lot of us are addicted to the relentless pursuit of success to our own detriment: We do anything and everything we can to get a dopamine hit that comes from checking things off our to-do list, yet we never get much closer to experiencing success on a genuine level. In this episode, I’m talking about the importance of living a life that feels to you personally and professionally. You’ll also learn about defining what success looks like for you and how to do it so you can jump off the hamster wheel of success and start pursuing a life you truly want right away.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Define success on your own terms.

Questions I Answer

  • What is success?
  • How can I feel more successful?
  • What do I need to do to

Actions to Take

  • Incorporate the momentum-builders we discussed into your day and examine how you think and feel about success shifts based on your own definition!

Key Topics in the Show

  • The big issue when it comes to success

  • Redefining what success looks like for you

  • Finding success in your family, emotional and intellectual life

Resources and Links

  • 3 Ways to Redefine Success
    • Set your boundaries
    • Get in the habit of saying “no”
    • Give yourself one highlight to look forward to each day
Show Transcript

This is The Intentional Advantage podcast with your host, Tanya Dalton, an entrepreneur bestselling author, nationally recognized productivity expert, and mom of two. 

This season is all about Strategies for Success, helping you confidently step into leadership, purposefully, intentionally and mindfully. Are you ready? Here’s your host, Tanya Dalton. 

Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Intentional Advantage podcast. I’m your host, Tonya Dalton. And this is Episode 188. 

Today, I want to talk about the relentless pursuit of success. Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it? The relentless pursuit of success? It sounds amazing, but let’s imagine just for a second that maybe I started this episode a little bit differently. What if I had said today, we’re going to talk about the relentless pursuit of alcohol. That would be a very different feeling, right? 

You likely would have expected a depressing episode, maybe about a person in a downward alcoholic spiral. Doesn’t sound motivating at all. Here’s the thing: I read an article the other day that actually started with this scenario and it got me thinking, how do we define success? We talk about the relentless pursuit of it. We talk about how amazing it is to be constantly chasing success, but it isn’t really all that great. Is it really all that it’s cracked up to be? 

And this season, as you know, this season is all about strategies for success, but what in the world does that mean? We love the idea of the pursuit of success, and I think we can all agree: Success is what we’re all striving for. 

In fact, most people when asked what they want most in life, success, without question, is going to be listed in the top three. But if we love this idea of success, don’t, we need to define what success actually means and why we want to pursue it in the first place? I started diving into this idea and this concept, and I found that there was article after article after article glorifying this idea of being addicted to success. 

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Here’s just a sampling of a few articles that I found: 7 steps to getting addicted to success; 5 rules to get addicted to success; how to get addicted to success. Addicted, addicted. That was interesting. So I looked up the word addicted and I found this definition: exhibiting a compulsive, chronic, psychological, or physiological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity. 

Examples: addicted to heroin, addicted to alcohol, addicted to gambling, addicted to smoking. And now we can add addicted to success. Is this really something that we want, a compulsive, chronic, physiological and psychological need–need, not desire–but a craving so strong that we’re willing to sacrifice our own wellbeing to keep getting hits that success drug otherwise known as dopamine (the very same chemical that releases in our brain when we’ve crossed something off of our to-do list)? 

We get addicted to it. We’ve talked about this idea of being these dopamine junkies, where we’re doing things just to get that little high. And that’s what happens with success, only to a much grander scale. 

In fact, physician Robert Goldman did research that found that more than half of aspiring athletes would be willing to take a drug that would kill them in five years in exchange for winning every competition they enter today. 

They would be willing to trade their lives to have success for the next five years. That’s incredible. I mean, this need for success is so strong that it’s been shown that people willingly sacrifice their own wellbeing again and again, and again, just to get that high. It sounds like a drug doesn’t it? It really does. And maybe right now you’re thinking to yourself, ‘That’s crazy. I want success, but I’m not willing to die for it.’ Okay, I hear you on that. 

So let’s think about this pursuit in a little bit of a different way. Let’s think about how our society continually glorifies busy, working long days, and even longer nights, as a badge of honor. And it seems like no matter where you turn, there’s someone boasting about how busy they’ve been. 

Yeah, they try to play it off. They act like they’re annoyed: ‘Oh gosh, I have so much to do all day.’ But the fact that there are people around you that constantly talk about their busyness, tells you a lot about the world we live in 

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right now. And it’s about parading that busyness around for the sake of so-called success. 

So I want to rewind just a little bit to last week when we had Adrienne Bankert on the show and we chatted about the idea of kindness as a superpower and how one example or one way of expressing kindness is to pay it forward to yourself. So let me start by asking this question to you: How many hours do you work each week? 

I’m not talking about how many hours you’re scheduled to work or the number of hours that you’re shooting for, but truly how many hours do you find that you’re clocking in even long after your day is supposed to be done? 

And what I’m really looking to find out about you is whether or not you’re truly being as kind as you possibly can be to yourself. Are you treating yourself as well as you should be, or are you sacrificing some of that in pursuit of the busy-ness . . . in pursuit of success? 

And if you find that you’re constantly overworking yourself to death every day, here’s a little bit of tough love for you: The answer to the question is, NO, you’re not treating yourself as well as you should be. We are chasing the hamster wheel of success, feeling like we can never turn off work . . . which means you’re not treating yourself at all with a level of respect and kindness that you really do deserve. 

And even more than that, there’s no way in Hell that you’re truly being as successful as you want to be. Because here’s the thing: It’s easy to get addicted to success. It’s easy to have that happen. We want to be the best. I mean, who doesn’t? But when it comes to having success as an addiction, we tend to make time only for the things that contribute to that success, which is generally lasered-in on how well we stack up in our career or how well our business is doing. 

So we don’t feel like we have the time for our family or our friends, and we’ll complain about, ‘Oh, I don’t have the time to do those things I want.’ We’re giving our time over to this success addiction. We don’t have the bandwidth to go do something meaningful with our philanthropy. We’re stretched too thin to give back to our communities, yet we have ample time to pour into our work. 

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to feel busy all the time. I don’t want to feel like I’m married to my job or chained to my desk . . . even if I happen to love what I do. I do love what I do and what I create, but I don’t want to do that as my all-encompassing sense of being in success. 

Instead, I want to love what I do and still have time to experience joy in all the other areas of my life. I want to be intentional with how I spend my time and where I spend it. And honestly, I want the same for you. You deserve that. 

I want you to feel joy and success in all areas of your world. Not just at work, even if you love your job as much as I do. I want you to feel joy when you’re spending time with your friends and your family. I want you to feel like you’re being intentional about the things that you’re choosing to do and the people that you’re doing them with, which includes the things you do by yourself as well. 

I want you to define success on your own terms. That sounds pretty good. Doesn’t it? Having success on your own terms? Joy, happiness, less stress, fewer feelings of constant busyness and running around crossing task after task off our list with no end. 

The room for the kindness that we talked about last week, we can create that room for ourselves. We can allow that to flourish and grow. And I’m here to tell you it is absolutely possible, even if you don’t believe it. So I want to dig into this today on our episode, okay? Because here’s the thing that we really fall into: We fall into this trap of what success looks like. 

Michael Norton, who is a Harvard business professor . . . He points to two key questions that people ask themselves when it comes to being satisfied: Am I doing better than I was before? And am I doing better than other people? That’s the big one right there. And here is the big issue: When it comes to success, we define success by what we see around us. 

Whether we realize it or not, we are secretly comparing ourselves to others to gauge our own success. And there are two groups of people that we like to look at. We like to look at those who are not moving to the same trajectory as we are, which makes us feel a little bit smug, maybe a touch superior. And 

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then we also look at those people who are ahead of us, which makes us feel like, ‘Oh, I have got to keep doing more.’ 

Right? So let’s take a look at that first group, the people who maybe aren’t performing to the same level that we are. It’s not that we’re wanting to be better than everybody else, it’s just that we want to be better than everybody else. It’s true. I mean, think about it. 

We want to be number one. When we root for our sports team, we don’t say we want to be number two or three. We’re saying we want to be number one. We all like singing along with Queen to ‘We Are The Champions.’ Who doesn’t? We like to feel like we’re on top, but it’s not that we’re looking for power or we’re power-hungry over anybody else. 

It’s just that we have this need to measure our success and guage where we are. And one way to do that is by looking at the competition. And it feels really good to see that we’re doing pretty well when we look at other people who aren’t quite at our level in the game, right? 

But what about that second group? The ones who are ahead of us, or even ones who are playing at the same level as us? Comparing ourselves to others becomes our measuring stick of success. And if that stick shows that we’re falling short, we find ourselves hustling, grinding, and sacrificing everything to achieve the mirage of success. Everything that’s really important that is we let it fall to the wayside. 

We skip the dance recital because we have a meeting. We travel on our kids’ birthdays. We miss out on the really good things in life because we think success only happens in between the walls of our office. 

So let’s redefine that idea. And I want to get to that in just a moment. I want to talk about this idea of really redefining what success looks like for you, but let’s take a quick mid-episode break. And then we’ll dive into that when we come back. 

All season long, we are talking about strategies for success. And one of the ways that you will find yourself to be the most successful is by planning and really using a planner that’s designed to work for you. Let’s be honest, 2020 has been a tough year and I am really excited to announce that the 2021 

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planners from inkWELL Press, my own company, are going to be available starting next week. They’re launching September 9th and this is a great time to get yourself on track for when we flip that calendar over to 2021. To anyone looking to start setting yourself up for some success, we do have fall planners that are available to go along with 2021, so you can start planning right away. 

All of our planners are customizable. Whether you are a weekly planner or a daily planner or a monthly planner type of person, you can customize your planner so it really works for you. Whether it’s adding in some extra notes pages, adding in a triple pocket folder, or adding a priority list to your every-day. . . When you customize your planner, you truly make it so it works for you. And that’s the way to truly find success. Head to inkwellpress.com to customize yours today. 

All right, let’s dive back into that idea of really defining success for yourself and what that really looks like. So the first thing I think we have to do is we need to agree that success doesn’t have to be solely defined by what you do from 9 to 5. 

You’ve heard me say this a thousand times before. (I know you have.) You are more than just a worker bee. You have so many amazing facets to your life. So let’s let each one of them shine. Success doesn’t have to be just who we are at work. Let’s focus-in on finding success in our family life, in our emotional life and in our intellectual life. 

Having a good career is great, but it’s not really enough. We tend to hold up our careers or our businesses as these shiny status symbols for who we are. But what about our own personal growth? We have so much more potential than earning a paycheck or driving a Tesla or whatever status symbol you think defines you. 

With my kids, whenever they do work, I’ll ask them, can you sign your name to it? Meaning are you proud enough of what you’ve created or what you’ve done that you’d sign your name in the corner? Like a work of art, anything worth doing is worth doing well. That’s a phrase that’s uttered a million times at my house to my kids. 

And that includes how we interact in our relationships, how we pursue our hobbies, and even how we do our chores, go through life–feeling like it’s a 

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precious work of art, choosing to sign your name to it. But here’s the thing: We look around, and you’re going to notice there are a lot of people who are doing their best to define what success looks like by how much they accumulate or how much they can get you to accumulate. 

You know what I’m talking about here. These are like the Facebook ads with the guys who have like the overly done biceps and they’re crossed in front of their private jet or their Ferrari. And they’re talking about: This is what success looks like. You can accumulate so much money. Is that really what you want? Is that really what success looks like to you? 

Because there are other people out there, there are other people who talk about success and even have Facebook ads that really have impacted our world in a positive way with their amazing work. And they continue living 

with their true priorities in focus. So I think the question here for you is which one do you want to be? Do you want to define success by how much you accumulate or by how rich your life is? 

The lonely entrepreneur is the one who puts so much emphasis on the things they’ve accumulated: the houses, the cars, the trinkets, but they don’t have a rich life in any other aspects. You can choose to be the one who is truly rich through everything else in your life. The abundance that you see again and again, in the relationships in the activities you’re doing just in the life that you’re living, that feels full and satisfactory. 

I think that is so important. And there are truly some incredible examples of strong, confident women who have built up incredible businesses that have made a huge impact in the world around them and still stayed focused on what matters most to them. Let’s listen to a couple of their definitions of success. 

Billionaire founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, says success is the courage to live your truest and biggest life. I love that: your biggest and truest life. That sounds incredible. 

What about Kendra Scott with her philanthropic jewelry empire? What she says about success is it’s “being able to do what I love to be present for my family and to be able to help others in the process, that truly is success.” I couldn’t agree more. 

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This is the thing: We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. We can be rich in our home life. We can be rich in our bank accounts. We can be rich in our relationships. We can be rich with what we contribute and offer to the world 

around us, to our communities, to the people who truly could benefit from our gifts. 

Ultimately though it is absolutely up to you to decide how you want to define success. So I’d love to close out this episode with some momentum-builders, some easy tips that you can start using right away to help you stop spreading yourself too thin, and to really think about what success means to you because I want you to create a life that is designed for you, not designed to keep up with the assumed status quo. Let’s make life work for you, okay? 

So let’s do those momentum-builders. The first one is setting boundaries, which again, I know you’ve heard me talk about before, but it always bears repeating because I feel like I say it and I say it, and then finally someone goes, ‘Oh, I should do that.’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, you really should.’ 

So let’s start there. Let’s set some boundaries. I want to encourage you to treat your workday, the ideal workday that you have in your mind, where you have a specific start time and a specific end time . . . I want you to treat it as an appointment. 

In other words, the hours that you set aside to work each day are going to become non-negotiable for you from this point forward. So if you say my workday is going to be from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM, then that’s what I want you to stick with. No excuses, no telling yourself, ‘Oh, just one more thing. And then I’ll leave.’ None of that. 

Give yourself a nice, hard start time and a stop time. And then don’t stray away from it. I like to call these containers of time: There’s a time to get in and a time to get out. I really, in my head, I picture it as a container, almost like a Tupperware container where I’m diving in, I’m spending a good amount of time where I want to spend it, and then I’m hopping on out. And that’s really what boundaries look like to me. So I want to encourage you to create those boundaries. They don’t have to be the same boundaries every single day of the week. They can be different from week to week, depending on where you are in life or what’s happening in your world. 

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I know that for me, back when I was starting my first company with my kids playing at my feet, going to preschool, and dealing with nap times . . . Some weeks I worked more hours, and some weeks I worked less. But I always set up the boundaries of when I was starting and stopping each day. And I 

communicated them with my family. 

So let’s start there: Tip number one: set your boundaries. And that brings us to number two: Get yourself in the habit of saying ‘No’ when you have a lot on your plate, and saying ‘No’ when you have a little on your plate too. So this means turning down some requests that, you know, deep down inside, you don’t have the time or quite frankly, the patience to do. 

And you need to let them go without regret, without guilt, without the stress. I think so often we think that saying no means that we are failing or we’re letting someone else down. Warren Buffet, who we can all agree is wildly successful . . . Warren Buffet says, ‘Really successful people say no to almost everything.’ 

Here’s a splash of cold water for you: It is not your responsibility to be available to every single person that asks for your time or asks you a question or sends you a request. You are not obligated to leave yourself open and available for anyone and everyone. Save yourself for the best people in your life–the people that you really want to give yourself to. Instead of spreading yourself thin, pour yourself fully into those that mean something to you. 

I don’t want you to treat yourself like a martyr. I don’t want you to feel like, ‘Oh, I’m a terrible person cause I haven’t done this.’ There’s no reason to try to do something or to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do or to spend your time in ways that really don’t benefit you. And it’s okay to not feel guilty about that. 

Alright, lastly, tip number three: Give yourself one highlight to look forward to each day. This is something that you’re really excited about doing that has absolutely nothing to do with your job. I know that’s crazy, but really let’s create a highlight in our day that is outside of who we are as a worker. 

That could be an evening walk outside after dinner, watching a movie on the couch with your family, reading a chapter of a book that you’re reading that 

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you’re excited about, taking a bubble bath, grabbing takeout from your favorite restaurant . . . Doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever it is, find something each and every day to look forward to doing after you’ve left your workspace. 

After the workday is done, let’s make a highlight for you to look forward to. And that’s when you’re gonna start feeling satisfaction. That’s when you’re going to start feeling more successful. 

The more that you remind yourself that you do have a life outside of your day job, the easier it will become to routinely unplug at the end of the day . . . and, little by little, the more work-harmony that you’re going to start infusing into your life. And that’s really what’s important. 

Remember: There is and should be joy outside of whatever you do for a living, no matter how much you tell yourself you love your job. Because here’s the thing: If you do nothing else in your day, besides checking tasks off your list day in and day out–checking that to-do list, scratching things off . . . What’s the point of all that hard work? 

If there’s nothing outside of that, if you’re not enjoying the fruits of your labor, there’s no point in laboring at all. Keep that in mind as you navigate the rest of your week. And I want to encourage you to start sharing some of these after-work highlights with me in my Facebook group. 

If you’re not in the Facebook group, head on over there; this is where we have conversations after the show where we take a lot of what we’re talking about here, and we really extend it and start applying it into your life. 

You can join by heading to Tanya dalton.com/group. 

My goal with that community is that, the more that we come together to share our wins and the more that we empower each other to enjoy and pursue all facets of our lives and stop glorifying busy, the easier it will be for us to all experience true happiness and success that we’re always talking about here on the show. 

So really think about that. What is it you want to do? And then head over to the Facebook group, share it with us there. We’re going to continue these 

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conversations about strategies for success next week, where we’re talking about systems that are going to help you find some success. 

And I love that we’re starting to really tackle success outside of just our work sphere–outside of our work life, and really looking at success overall. 

So I want you to take some time this week, really step back, maybe from your everyday life . . . and I want you to really take a good strong look at how you’ve viewed success and what that means to you. 

Because . . . defining success on your own terms? That’s the Intentional Advantage. 

**This transcript was created using AI – please excuse grammar and typos.

Tanya Dalton is a woman on a mission to help redefine productivity. She is considered one of the best motivating female keynote speakers. She talks with women about finding balance, time management, habits and goal setting.

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