Success is so much more than crossing something off your to-do list. It’s about the journey — what you overcame, how you grew and what you learned along the way. In short, success is a season. And if we’re going to run with that metaphor, the calendar season that feels most like success for me, is autumn.
There are intuitive reasons for this. Fall is the season of harvest, of labor that yields abundance. It is the close of the year, a time for assessment, recalibration and planning. But there are personal reasons I connect fall with success, as well. In the fall of 2017 I was completing my doctoral dissertation in Transformational Leadership and Coaching. It was a huge milestone in my career, and life, and something I was balancing with a full time job and the responsibilities of being a wife, and mother to daughters in high school and college.
Meeting deadlines for massive, time intensive and intellectually challenging writing assignments that meant as much to me personally as they did professionally, required an intentionality and self-awareness that I had previously not explored. As I developed these skills, my definition of success shifted to not only encompass the EdD that would follow my name upon my dissertation’s completion, but the newly evolved woman that the title would describe.
That fall, for me, was a true season of success. But of course, this success was defined by behavioral shifts and practices that supported the hard work I undertook. My strategy was to minimize stress and friction and enter a state of flow around my responsibilities. I would start each work session by giving myself a moment to close my eyes and remind myself why I was doing what I was doing. This intention setting grounded me in my passion and empowered me to see the big picture joy that my day-to-day labor was creating.
After this, I would always ensure that the space I worked in was comfortable and beautiful. If I was at home, I would put on music, light some candles and put “brain power” oils in my diffuser. If I was at a coffee shop, I would carry on with the music and select a comfy spot. I made sure that my environments brought out the best in me, allowing me to fully immerse myself in my thoughts and creativity.
Flow looks different for everyone, and for me it looked like setting limits that allowed me to be fully present in whatever I was undertaking. I would also set off distinct blocks of time as I worked to allow for mental breaks. These self-imposed boundaries kept me rested and sharp, while maximizing my productivity. This was huge for my focus as well as my growth in understanding what I needed to produce my best work.
However, this wasn’t always effective. There were of course moments that I felt tired, defeated and like I had taken on the impossible. At these times, I visualized myself at my doctoral defense, having successfully completed it. I implemented Peter Gollwitzer “if/then” statements to add clarity and a sense of concreteness to this process. Through this process, I manifested my success. I used the promise of making it through to get me there.
When I eventually made it through the fall and earned my degree, I was finally able to see the true fruits of my success. There was more than a doctorate at the end. I had uncovered a new mode of functioning that would characterize my approach to my future career. With every element of flow, nourishment and peace I had introduced into my success plan, I had grown into my femininity as a student, writer, mother, wife, employee and coach.
At the end of the road, my degree stood for this newfound energy as much as it represented the technical knowledge I gained along the way. It was representative of my success, but the real work and triumph had come in the journey.
Dr. Gertrude Lyons is an international speaker, trainer, and educator in human emergence, lifestyle, parenting, leadership development, career, relationship satisfaction and women’s development. She serves as the Lead Faculty member, Senior Life Coach and Director of Family Programs for The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential. Dr. Lyons received her MA in psychology and an MA and EdD in transformational leadership and coaching, with a focus on mothering.