Susan S. Freeman On How We Need To Redefine Success

Explore any gaps between what you value and how you have defined success. Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum […]

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Explore any gaps between what you value and how you have defined success.


Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Susan S. Freeman.

Susan S. Freeman, MBA, PCC, NCC is an ICF and EMCC- accredited executive coach, team coach, leadership development consultant, speaker, and author of “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others”. She writes about humanistic leadership based on her unique system blending Western strategy and Eastern wisdom to activate the Guru Leader Within™. Visit her at www.susansfreeman.com and www.guruleaderwithin.com.


Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?

My younger self believed success had to do with going to the right schools, getting into the right companies in the right roles, getting promoted frequently and earning commensurate with my role and responsibility. Many of us did all the “right” things, and yet there was something missing. As I grew and expanded my own thinking about what gave me joy, I expanded my thinking around success — -for myself and for others. One thing that helped was speaking to successful people who at one point in their careers who pivoted away from a “traditional” path of physician or business owner due to an “event.” Once through the transition, they came to define success differently and also more authentically. I think it’s helpful to learn from the experiences of others. I find that by being curious, I can learn that others have had their share of “re-definitions” and that is ok.

How has your definition of success changed?

My wiser self looks at success more holistically. Now I see success as being tied to living in alignment with my values, being able to be authentic in my work, and to help others achieve what matters most to them. Impact is important, not in terms of quantity, but rather quality. Am I creating impact? Does my work in the world matter? Do I work just to make money or is there something else that motivates me?

The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?

I see the pandemic as a time that offers the potential for great awakening. For those that are ready to step up, it offered a chance to slow down, to thoughtfully reflect, and to listen to the answers from within ourselves. When all the external distractions were removed, we had a chance to pursue our deepest longings — -for creative expression, connection, and urgency to do what mattered without further delay.

Many of us made moves to other physical locations, wrote books, took up new avocations, re-kindled old friendships, creating new communities of connection, and even enjoyed cooking our own food! We tapped into what our hearts longed for — -what was missing pre-pandemic — -and we’re creating that in our lives now. Without the suddenness of the pandemic to upend our habits, I don’t imagine all these changes would have taken place so rapidly.

What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.

I have experienced so many unexpected positives as a result of the pandemic. First, it has been the chance to slow down the running around and rushing. I find now that much of what I did before and haven’t done for the last twenty months I don’t much miss.

The biggest unexpected positive has been the opportunity to connect with others all over the world through Zoom. I’ve taken an advanced course with coaches all over the globe and have created colleagues and friends as a result. I know this is true for many, many people. It is surprising how much the “virtual” world has offered us in terms of frequency and convenience.

I think our workplaces are re-inventing themselves as a result of the pandemic, and that this is a positive. The worker shortage will lead organizations to focus on employee physical and mental well-being. I predict that those who adapt in a meaningful way will thrive in this new era.

I also believe the pandemic brought about a shift in priorities and values, having spent much more time in nature, and with fewer people perhaps than before. There is more connection to the earth, and to seeing the impact we have had on it.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be open to a new definition of success.
  2. Lean into your core values.
  3. Explore any gaps between what you value and how you have defined success.
  4. Journal about success without using the words “money,” “promotion” or “title”.
  5. Say “yes” to one new thing.

How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?

Not only would our lives improve as we evolve our definition of success, but our world will improve as well.

Our world is a reflection of our internalized priorities and values.

What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?

I believe the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success is our attachment. We become identified with the “ego” and confuse it with our true “self”. We need to learn that the ego is not who we truly are. The ego maintains our identification with our constructed sense of ourselves; how we dress, where we work, and, how much money we make. When we no longer need those constructs, (because we don’t identify with them) we are free to express who we truly are. That is when we can define success in a way that matters to us.

Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?

I read from a diverse library of the world’s great teachers and wisdom traditions. Ultimately, however, no one else can tell you how to redefine it as it has to come from within you.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.

Ariana Huffington

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit me at www.susansfreeman.com and www.guruleaderwithin.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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