How to stop striving and start thriving in your professional life

Sep 24, 2020

I fell into a heap on the bathroom floor, overcome with feelings of guilt and shame. How the hell did I end up here?

In the depths of burn-out, I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. But I also felt like something was missing. I was dreading Mondays and struggled to find the motivation to get up for work each day.

As an ambitious, high-achiever this was unusual. And deep down, I knew I needed more than a break.

For the first time ever, I stopped to contemplate what I really wanted. And I realised — although I loved being my own boss and had a successful business, I wasn’t fulfilled by my work. In this moment, I knew I had to find something more meaningful.

I also recognised the pattern of working myself into burnout. After a decade of repeating this cycle, I decided it was time to make significant changes. And this is when my journey of learning how to thrive, not strive starts.

Are you a driven, high-performer who is:

  • Exhausted or overwhelmed from trying to ‘do it all’?
  • Feeling empty or unfulfilled, despite your success?
  • Questioning who you are, what your purpose is and what you want professionally?

If this is you, I want you to know there is a better way.

Today, I’m introducing you to the concept of going from ‘striving to thriving’. This is a culmination of all the most important lessons learnt on my professional journey. Ones I support my clients with too.

Read on to learn my three greatest secrets to thrive in your professional life. You’ll find out how to stop striving and start thriving — so you can create a business, career and life on your terms.

WHAT DOES UNHEALTHY STRIVING LOOK LIKE?

In my coaching business, I work with high-achievers who are successful in their careers. From the outside, their lives look picture perfect. But on the inside, they’re often deeply unhappy.

Why? Because they’ve been conditioned to follow a traditional career path or settle for a sensible job. One which gives them wealth, security or a steady pay cheque.

By the time they contact me, they’re exhausted from trying to ‘do it all’. Striving to reach someone else’s version of success. And to find a work/life balance that doesn’t exist.

They want help to grow their business or figure out their career goals. But in reality, they have no idea who they are or what they really want. They’re feeling empty, unfulfilled and end up asking themselves — is this all there is?

WHY THRIVING STARTS FROM THE ‘INSIDE OUT’

The reason I’m so passionate about helping high-achievers stop striving and start thriving is because I get it. I’ve been there too.

In my corporate job, I drove myself to reach the next sales target, financial result or promotion, was constantly stressed and exhausted. I’d look at the ‘successful’ people around me and followed their example.

Then, I started my business because I wanted more freedom and balance. Yet 5 years later, I had none. I was struggling with stress, burnout, anxiety and the desire for perfection running my own business — as I had in my corporate career.

My self-worth and identity were tied up in work. I had no balance in other areas of my life. And lacked a clear purpose behind what I was doing beyond overachievement, making money and external success.

This is because I was starting from the ‘outside in’ — striving to reach someone else’s idea of success. As a result, I’d spent the better part of my career working towards what I thought I ‘should’ be doing.

Healthy striving is about starting from the ‘inside out’. By working towards the right goals and focusing your time on what matters to you. You can still be ambitious and work hard — as long as it’s aligned to what you want!

Here are my three game-changing secrets to help you thrive in your professional life:

SECRET #1 — DEFINE SUCCESS ON YOUR TERMS

The first secret to start thriving in your professional life, is to define what success looks like to you. I learnt figuring out the right career goals needs to begin from the inside out. Because unless I knew myself and what I wanted, I was never going to thrive!

You can do this by creating your vision for success. A vision gives you clarity on what you’re working towards. This is why it’s the first place I begin when working with my coaching clients.

Start by picturing the career and life you want to have in 3 years’ time.

  • What do you want to do and achieve?
  • How to you want to feel?
  • Who is the person you want to become?

From there, you can easily identify the goals and action steps you need to take. I completed this exercise and less than 3 years later, I’ve made my vision a reality.

It’s important to note — success is different for every individual. For one of my clients, their vision for success is building a business which allows them to work overseas for half the year, write a book and fund interests outside work. For another, success is working part-time hours so they can spend time with their young daughter.

Next, know your priorities and what truly matters to you. Working through this process, I realised freedom was one of my highest values and the reason WHY I’d started my own business.

Knowing this about myself was a game-changer. It led me to overhaul my lifestyle, change my business model and pivot my career into more fulfilling work. To stop striving and start thriving.

SECRET #2 — KNOW ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

As a child, I could never settle on the one thing I wanted to do when I grew up. But I always knew — I wanted to start my own business one day. My dad inspired me — he’d achieved amazing success as a business owner.

From a young age, he instilled this belief in me: anything is possible. With persistence, self-belief and consistent action. It’s this one belief that’s helped me go after and achieve everything I’ve put my mind to.

From trying out many careers in pursuit of my multi-passions and working overseas in my early 20’s. To leaving a well-paid corporate job days before my 30th birthday to follow my lifelong dream of starting a business. Then, pivoting my career and closing a successful business to start a new one.

What holds us back

By the time my clients figure out what they want, fear and limiting beliefs hold them back. The fear of judgement and what other people will think if they step away from a successful career or business. The belief what they want isn’t possible for them.

Through my experience of changing careers, growing two businesses and helping hundreds of individuals reach their career goals, the second secret I’ve learnt is this: Anything is possible with persistence, self-belief and inspired action.

Fear is a natural response any time we’re about to make a big change or push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. But it also holds us back from what going after what we want.

And this is where I always remind my clients, fear is separate to them, not part of them — it’s within their complete control how they choose to respond to it. They can choose to stay stuck in the fear. Or to step into the discomfort in pursuit of their dreams.

Working through fear begins with awareness, followed by inspired action. Because insight without action won’t get you results!

If I’m ever stuck, I ask myself. What’s the next best step I can take right now? Focus on small steps, one at a time.

This is such a fundamental belief that’s shaped who I am as a person and what I’ve been able to do and achieve. It’s also the reason my purpose is to show others what is possible.

SECRET #3 — BUILD RESILIENCE TO OVERCOME SETBACKS

In 2018, I received a call out of the blue from my Dad. It could have been any typical mid-week working day. But that day is etched in my memory and that one phone call changed my life forever.

“I’ve just come from the doctor. He told me it’s the worst news possible. I have pancreatic cancer.”

This news arrived not long after I’d launched my coaching business and while I was studying part-time. Dad went through several months of gruelling treatment but sadly, in early 2019, we learnt it was terminal. My now husband and I got engaged and frantically planned our wedding in 2 months — so my Dad could see me get married.

And this is what happens in life. It sometimes throws you unexpected curveballs.

Understandably, I became overwhelmed. From the emotional toll and stress of balancing time with a sick parent, while running a business, studying and planning a wedding in such a tight timeframe. In the past, I would have kept pushing through and ended up burnt-out as I had many times before.

Thankfully, because of the mindset work I’d done and lessons learnt, I’d build enough resilience to get through a challenging year. Through this experience, the third and final secret I’ve learnt is the importance of building resilience to manage and overcome personal or professional setbacks.

Here are three ways to do this. First, despite your ambition, recognise the importance of slowing down — and even stopping when you need it. All so you can keep going and speed up later.

Focus on ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’. Be present in the moment, do what you can and take the time to process what is happening. Prioritise self-care during challenging times — but also build it into your schedule on an ongoing basis.

Second, practice self-compassion. As a high-performer, it can be tough to slow down and you can easily feel guilty about the things you don’t get done. Instead, be kind to yourself and stop beating yourself up for what you don’t do!

Finally, reframe your thoughts. Realise while you can’t always control situations or circumstances that come your way, you do get to control how you respond to them. If you find yourself stuck in fear, overwhelm or anxiety, choose a more helpful thought or feeling instead.

Final thoughts..

We lost my Dad last July, a few days before our wedding. Looking back at this time, I’m grateful I was clear on what success looked like for me and built a business which gave me the freedom to spend time with my Dad in those final months.

And although taking time out of my business set me back, I knew it was possible to rebuild — because I’d done it before. Finally, resilience and learning how to manage my mind allowed me to find the space I needed to grieve, then bounce back more quickly than I’d ever done in the past.

This experience taught me how precious life is. You only get one, so please don’t waste it!

Stop striving. Figure out your version of success, know anything is possible and start cultivating the resilience you need to overcome any setbacks along the way. And finally, start thriving.

These insights have been life-changing for me on both a professional and personal level. And they’re the exact strategies I teach to high-achieving business owners and senior leaders too. I hope they also support you. 

Ready to stop striving, start thriving and create a business, career + life on your terms?

Click HERE to book a free 45 minute Discovery Call to experience some coaching and find out how it can support you!

Stacey Back is an online business coach, career strategist and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving professionals go from feeling trapped in their corporate jobs to developing the confidence and strategy to transition into their own consultancy. 

Stacey also supports existing consultants and service-based entrepreneurs who are frustrated and overwhelmed to establish the right foundations in their business so they can find more time, freedom and create a business doing the work they love — one which supports their ideal lifestyle. She works virtually with individuals based across Australia and internationally.