By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

How do you define success?

Does it look like a big paycheck, fancy car and the giant corner office desk in the office?  

Does career success look like having that prestigious degree and job title?

The dictionary describes success as the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.

How does that land for you? As a coach to many people, I have found it is something far different from the laundry list of outdated items and ideas that many were raised on.

Because here’s the truth: real success is rooted in your own empowerment, a power that no one can take away from you. With this power comes five key signs that you are successful.

1. You find your voice and use it.

You have found your backbone, you confidently use your voice to speak up when needed. When you are comfortable and ready to speak your truth with authority and confidence success is yours. When you consider that only 1% of employees feel extremely confident speaking up, you will stand out when you do. And voicing your concerns isn’t just for you, it costs the organization an average of $7,500 for each issues that goes unspoken about and resolved.

Part of this means making big decisions with conviction in your career. If you have a really prestigious job, and yet, you’re afraid to share an idea with a colleague, we have some work to do on your mindset. 

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Take small steps and start to speak up in settings where you feel more comfortable and the risk feels lower, like with a loved one or friends. Let them know you want to build your confidence in speaking up and ask them to share feedback when you do.  
  • When you head into a situation where you will need to speak up, write down what you want to say ahead of time and bring it with you.  
  • Do your homework ahead of time and know why you are speaking up. Be clear on what you are sharing, why it matters and what results you are aiming to get from the conversation.
  • Consider joining a Toastmaster group or getting a job or side gig is something that requires you to use your voice, like teaching a spin class or be a tour guide at a local attraction.  

This is all about building a muscle in time.

2. You are able to focus on the now.

Success is rooted in a sensation of joy and happiness. A study by Strayer University found that 90% of Americans believe happiness is a bigger indicator of success than power, possessions, or prestige. In fact, only 20% indicated that financial wealth determines success. 

So, how do you find more joy and happiness in life?

You build practices to live in the present moment- be mindful.  

Begin to work a meditation practice into your daily routine. First, consider guided meditations. There are many apps out there offer guided meditation like Insight Timer, or keep a look out for Oprah and Deepak’s free releases of their 21-day meditation series.

As a speaker, I find the day of a big speaking engagement is when I need it the most. For this reason, I will spend a solid 30 minutes in the morning walking through a guided meditation to get me centered and excited. The days I do this, everything is more present, I live more in the moment the entire day and guess what, my talks always go better!

Meditation doesn’t have to look like sitting on a fluffy pillow, breathing in and out. You can practice active meditation, go on a walk, play an instrument…do anything that gets you out of your head and focused totally on the present moment. This can even go to extremes! Steve Kotler studied extreme athletes and how they have taken sports to new levels through flow states, finding that, “The easiest way to live in the moment is to put yourself in a situation where there’s no other choice.”

We all can’t surf 60-foot waves or compete in the x-games, but we can practice living in the moment.  

Practice mindful eating. Sit down and have a meal in silence where you put your phone away, don’t watch television or even talk to anyone. Enjoy the experience of nourishing your body bite by bite. You will be surprised at how present it makes you feel, and how yummy the food tastes. Check out Pause Breathwork by Samantha Skelly, a program dedicated to breathwork led by a woman who helps others overcome their relationships with food.

3. You aren’t afraid to dream bigger.

Successful people give themselves permission to dream as big as they want. When you create a vision for your life that might seem wildly ambitious, but you take steps every day towards it, know you are successful. These steps might be small or time-consuming, but it is the ability to delay your gratification and keep dreaming big that sets the successful apart from others. Did you know that only 8% of people who set New Year’s goals actually attain them? This small percentage of people that did, do so because the set very specific goals that were challenging (but attainable). When someone sets a goal with these two principles there is a 90% chance of success.

If you feel like you are cruising through life without any big plans or ambitions, that’s okay, but let’s get you moving and inspired for more!

Set a plan in place to achieve your goals. Here’s how:

  • Before you create a dream or a goal, as yourself “why?”, find your inner purpose for why you want this goal. That is going to be what keeps you going when things get tough or tiring. Instead of making a goal “To become the manager of my team” understand why you want this and what it will do: Enable me the opportunity to help others and provide me with more money to build a college fund for my children. The real purpose of this goal is to help others.  
  • Find an accountability partner. Share your goals with another person or group the help encourage one another to reach your dream. It will make the process more fun and you will be held accountable to show up for others and yourself.
  • Don’t set it and forget it. Come back to review your goal consistently, maybe even daily. A great way to track your progress is through the BestSelf Journal, a magical goal setting journal that also helps you practice gratitude each day.

When you can view a goal or dream from a deeper intention, it becomes more attainable and success is made possible. Just like how athletes will visualizing winning a track race or tennis tournament you can visualize your goals coming into fruition. Visualizing the steps to reach the end goal raises your chances of success 13% or more.

4. You embrace failure.

If you are an ambitious person, you probably have felt like a failure at some point. That’s because your standards are high! Nonetheless, successful people don’t allow that feeling to last long, nor do they make too much meaning of themselves from it. that feeling doesn’t last long.

You know that failure isn’t forever, and is actually an opportunity to learn and grow. In fact, success lives on the same block as failure!it down and make a list of the moments, people and experiences in your life that have taught you the most. Where their “successes” or “failures”? Write down what happened and what you learned, because it’s all about reframing. Chances are you can see any “loss” as a blessing if you’re willing to search for it. This is a testament to someone’s mindset.

Most people have an unconscious fear of failure, which means you are not able to address it. This is bad news because addressing your fear is key to increasing your chances of success. Feel your fear, and work with it; don’t avoid it. Avoiding your emotions can actually lead to physical illness and health issues down the road. The idea to “suck it up” or “push it down” are a road straight to depression and anxiety.

5. Your world doesn’t revolve around you.

We all know those “successful” people who walk into a room as if they’re the center of the universe. I am here to tell you, successful people have usually learned how to manage people, and true leadership looks like focusing on the needs of your team, not your own. Why? Because when your top talent is performing, your company or business you work in is thriving. That requires truly successful people to check their ego at the door, realizing no job is too big or too small, and that the needs of their team members are sacred.When you are no longer the center of the universe, you have succeeded.

Take stock in where you stand with success and work towards making these changes one day at a time. Don’t sit around and wait for that job title change or salary bump, start taking action now to become a success!

For a FREE course to land a new job you love, launch your dream business, or find your purpose, visit


  • I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Media, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.