Redefining Success On Your Own Terms

Cleelia Uudam Costa
7 min readSep 28, 2023

Redefining success on your own terms is about honouring your true self, your gifts and your dreams while letting go of external expectations.

Our Definition of Success Changes With Our Seasons of Life (Image: Author)

What Does Success Look Like for You?

Do you love your life?

a) “Yes I do!” Oh, well done! Congratulations for figuring it out and enjoying this journey!

b) “No, I do not” or “Yes, but..” Oh, no problem, you are fully on time to make the necessary changes!

It is never too late to change your life or simply enhance it a little bit. It is never too late to set yourself up for success on your own terms!

Defining Success

What does success look like to you?

On a scale from 1 to 10, how successful are you today?

If your experience is anything like mine, probably you also grew up thinking that success is largely related to the job you have, the money you make and the status you achieve. You were taught to compare yourself with others to measure “how well you are doing in life” from an early age. There is no doubt that the traditional definition of success has been for long time related to keywords like achievement, career, money, power, fame and so on. Terms like “meaning”, “purpose”, “experience”, “happiness” are much newer additions to the concept of success.

What if success does not need to be a moving target, something to go after, but instead, once you have defined what it means for you, it can be an ongoing experience of living your life. I truly believe that creating your own definition of success is the way to go for building a life to fall in love with.

Having all the freedom to decide, how would you like to define success for you?

Decluttering Expectations

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist). Don´t you think that this sounds about right. People around you seem to know what is good for you and you also might have some suggestions for the others.. For some reason it often feels as if it is quite obvious what somebody else should do, while your own life feels way more complex.

Well, if you let other people’s expectations, judgement and opinions to guide you, you might end up getting lost on the way. Your beliefs related to success go back to your childhood and family life. Taking time to think about all these external expectations, but also the internal ones, you have tried to live up to throughout your life, is a great starting point for creating a life of success on your own terms.

As a coach I have seen some well accomplished adults still feeling the pressure of family when it comes to career decisions. Either the example set inside the family or the general family narrative about what success is, both can have a strong and binding impact. If this is the case, it is important to keep in mind that choosing your own unique path and experiences is not about disrespecting or letting down your family, it is about your “obligation” (if not to say your birthright) to live your life fully.

Family Love (Image: Jessica Rockowitz on Unsplash)

Let’s be clear here, whatever it is that your parents expect from you, it does come from a place of love — based on the knowledge and experience they have, they truly believe that they teach you the path to safety and wellbeing. Besides family, there is still the whole society with its norms, rules, cliches, expectations. It all starts from school — in more competitive school systems (like the one I grew up with) — grades kind of define your “value”. As a coach I have noticed, and also experienced first-hand, that if you happen to be a good student, you might leave school also seeking to define your value through grades. And of course, this is a wonderful way to start your life “a bit lost”. You might want to keep working hard towards collecting these “golden stars”, but real life simply does not have the same organized “grading” system. If your “value” was always related to grades and achievements, then what happens to your “value” when there are no more grades?

While external expectations are about what others expect from you, then the internal ones are related to what you expect from yourself. Most certainly, they go hand in hand. Sometimes you transfer and transform the external expectations into internal ones, or in worst case, into limiting beliefs that impact your ways of thinking, taking decisions and your life in general. Gaining self-awareness about the expectations you still try to live up to or about any limiting beliefs stopping you from building your life and success in alignment with your true self, can be life-changing.

Creating Your Own Formula of Success

I am quite sure that one can go through life just fine when trying to meet the external expectations of their life. Now the question is, do you want to go through life “just fine” or do you want to live an extraordinary life, aligned with your true values and honouring who you are, fully and completely. While this might require courage, it is not that difficult to achieve. And quite often, it comes down to working on your mindset. It comes down to owning who you are, changing perspectives, creating new ways of thinking and doing things in life.

Redifining Success For You (Image: Author)

Redefining success is about creating new ways of thinking and doing things in life .

Said all that, there is no doubt that in order to fully trust and enjoy the process, you need to gain some self-awareness about what is important to you and why. It is valuable to take time to gain clarity about what are the goals and dreams you yourself would really love to achieve and experience rather than how this would look like for others.

3 Steps to Help You With Redefining Success

In case you have decided to embark on a life-enhancing journey, either to redefine what success means to you or simply to improve few things here and there, the best way to start is to get curious about yourself. Start by asking from yourself:

What else would you like to experience in your life?

What is stopping you from the life you dream of?

Go further. Go deeper. Involve your imagination to build a vision of success on your own terms. Let go of the expectations and traditional definition of success. What are the core values that guide you through your life. What are the goals and dreams you would like to accomplish. What are the beliefs, behaviors, experiences (but also goals!) that you could let go of. What strengths and talents would you like to explore further.

Once you have done enough self-exploration, get crystal clear about where are you now and where do you really want to go.

1) Brainstorm ideas and get creative about how to fill the gap.

2) Work on your mindset. Adapt your attitude towards circumstances you do not control and focus on what you do control. Take stock of what you already have (experiences, resources, connections, talents) and find ways how to (re)use it.

3) And make a plan of action! We can be all day here speaking about what you would like your life to look like, but if you do not take any real steps towards it, things will not change. As they say, doing more of the same, will create you more of the same!

Said all that, I am sure we all love our life some days more than on the others. If this is the case, put some conscious effort into focusing on the good days and on the positive aspects and do make sure to count your blessings. Gratitude makes one love their life a way lot more! And of course, practice mindfulness as everything is lighter and happier in the present moment. And last but not least, when redefining success on your own terms avoid the constant desire to go after the next big thing, the next goal, instead learn to enjoy more the process and to celebrate and savour each achievement accomplished.

Wisdom of the Years (Image: Author)

Our definition of success can change throughout different seasons of life.

With my little over four decades I have learnt to look at my personal definition of success as something organic, naturally evolving and growing through seasons of my life. I grew up thinking of success in form of an important job position, involving an office outfit and a big corporation. I ended up building my life as an entrepreneur. Also, for many years I could only imagine myself living in a vibrant capital city, yet we chose to move our family to a small village by the ocean. I always imagined myself as mom of 3, until that day.. when life surprised me with something better for me :)! However, let’s be clear, throughout all this journey, my core values (including freedom, curiosity and adventure) and my love for the magic of nature have stayed unchanged. They have been the compass for me on my way.

What is your compass?

* In case you would love to find out how I as a Life Coach can help you with your core values and your unique formula of success, please do not hesitate to reach out to me



Cleelia Uudam Costa

Writing to inspire and empower women. Transformational Life & Business Coach. Entrepreneur. PhD. Mom of 4. Estonian in Portugal