Ask yourself what success means to you, then pause for a while and think if that definition has been imposed by someone else, is it something that you grew up with, or is it truly your own definition? Once you get to know the origin of that definition, it will be easier for you to reframe and redefine it on your own terms.
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 Alejandra Marqués Méndez.
Alejandra Marqués Méndez is a Productivity & Balance Mentor. She is a former criminal law professor at university and project manager turned founder of Your Plan A. She empowers driven female entrepreneurs and business owners to accomplish a year’s worth of goals in 90 days, eliminate procrastination, have more balance, and create more time for the things that matter the most to them — with her signature T.I.M.E. method. Alejandra’s insights and tips have been featured in popular publications including Authority Magazine, Medium, Thrive Global, Brainz Magazine, and Morning Lazziness.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Thank you for having me here!
I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, and when I turned 18, I moved to Spain with my parents and my brother due to the situation of my country. It was one of the experiences that shaped who I am today because it completely changed what I considered as my “reality”. I had to say goodbye to a lot of people, friends, my partner, and part of my family. I had to forget about the lifestyle I was used to. We were starting all over again.
Back in those days, I considered myself an introvert, and just getting started in a place that I knew no one, was not comfortable at all. It sure opened a window to new possibilities; I could pretend that I was not an introvert and see what happened, I could be popular instead of the nerdy one. But the truth is that I did the opposite. I decided to focus only on myself and my studies, and I became the nerdy one faster than I expected when on the first day of class one of the teachers asked us to introduce ourselves saying what we had studied and if we spoke any other language. Well, by that time I spoke 4, learning a 5th one (because in Barcelona they speak more Catalan than Spanish), and that was enough for having all eyes on my neck. And since all I wanted was to be successful and have the best grades, I became the teachers’ favorite student, always answering the questions in class, always asking questions when the class finished. I had no interest in getting to know what was outside just because of how much I wanted to succeed by myself. Plus, I was working almost full-time at my parents’ restaurant at that time, so weekends were spent in the kitchen & serving at the bar, and then I decided to learn a 6th language…
Things changed progressively, I obviously made friends, but the word “competing” was always on my mind. So that’s where the second life experience that has shaped me the most comes into place.
About one year ago, after graduating from both of my degrees, I decided to pivot heavily, leaving behind what I once considered as being successful to actually pursue something more purposeful. That’s when I met an incredible community of women where no one was competing, all of them were there to support and lift each other. I must thank Rebecca Cafiero, my mentor, for showing me what once I thought was impossible. I saw myself surrounded not only by like-minded female entrepreneurs but also by amazing women who had way more than what I thought was possible. And then it clicked, there was no more comparison, now all that I could see was inspiration and motivation. There was no more competition, now everything was collaboration and partnering.
I am beyond grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve received, and all the life experiences that have brought me to where I am today.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
There are so many myths and misconceptions about success that I used to believe!
You need to work hard and long hours. If you leave the office on time you’re not doing enough. You need to always do more. You should always want more. No pain no gain. You should be working at the top companies if not you’re not enough. And so many more!
I was an overachiever and a perfectionist so you can imagine what my conception about success was.
And as I shared before, one of the biggest misconceptions I had about success was that you always had to look at other people as competition. And that made things pretty intense, not to mention how fast it leads to burnout.
How has your definition of success changed?
My definition of success has changed radically because now I don’t believe those myths anymore. I now know that you don’t need to do more or have more to be successful. Because the truth is that everyone has their own definition of success. Some might dream about having a huge mansion and a yacht, while others might dream about living on a bus traveling the whole continent.
And both definitions are equally valid.
For me, I don’t feel tempted anymore to be working on the top companies and have a fancy title that I could brag about. That’s why I pivoted my career and became an entrepreneur. I want to create something meaningful that allows me to have the freedom I consider as success. Being able to be there with and for my family, being able to travel the world whenever I want, design my own schedule and create an impact, being financially free, being happy, abundant, and grateful. That’s my current definition of success.
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?
It sure was! The pandemic forced us all to slow down in so many ways, but with slowing down came a lot of self-reflection and redefinition.
I believe that as a society we need to see this pause as an opportunity to ask ourselves what we really want, what are our priorities, and one of the biggest questions to ask ourselves is precisely what success means to us.
Stop believing old myths and reprogramming our minds to be able to see success on our own terms. Stop comparing yourself to others and start looking at them as inspiration, motivation, or even not relatable to you.
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
Some unexpected positives that I see in the pandemic are that I made us more aware of our health, the crazy life we were living always rushing everywhere.
It also made us reconnect with old passions and hobbies.
It forced us to be closer to our loved ones, and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that, my family and I spent so many good times watching old tv shows and playing ludo. Even if I always spend time with them, it was nice to really appreciate those moments and never take for granted what we’re doing.
It made me realize how much I love traveling, and how much I missed it.
Another unexpected positive was the huge pivot I made, not only going fully remote but more important, becoming an entrepreneur to have the freedom that allows me to spend more time with my loved ones, to travel more, to design my own schedule. To be able to take care of myself because now more than ever we know how important it is to be healthy.
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.)
- Ask yourself what success means to you, then pause for a while and think if that definition has been imposed by someone else, is it something that you grew up with, or is it truly your own definition? Once you get to know the origin of that definition, it will be easier for you to reframe and redefine it on your own terms.
- Think about what makes YOU happy, what lights up your soul. When was the last time you did something just for fun? Being happy and knowing what you like is always a good recipe to constantly having more of that. When you think about your success, picture yourself happy, doing something you love. Regardless of what you’ve been thinking all these years, if you pause right now for a minute, what would be that thing that lights you up that you want to pursue?
- Don’t think about a material result, think about the way you want to feel. We live in a society that always measures success in terms of money, achievements, and material stuff. If you want to build your own definition of success you should start by thinking about how you want to feel. When we operate from a state of being and really make decisions based on the way we want to feel, everything changes. Do you want to feel grateful, joyful, abundant? Once you know how you want to feel it is going to be easier for you to know what you should do and how to define success from now on.
- Get to know your deepest “Why”. Doing things because it looks good on paper (or on IG) is not motivation enough to get things done. Really getting to know you, and your deepest why, that thing that keeps you moving when things are not going well and that moves you even further when things are going great, is what will change your definition of success and the reason behind it.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is not healthy nor fun. If you only see people as competition, you’ll reach burnout so fast that you will not even know where that came from. Stop following people that don’t resonate with you and your definition of success. You don’t want to have negative people around you or people that bring you down. Instead, start looking for people who inspire you, that motivate you and that you can even ask for their advice.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
Our lives would improve in so many ways if we change our definition of success!
First, you would stop comparing yourself to others. When you create your own definition of success, there’s no need to compare yourself to what other people are doing or having. You can absolutely see people who match your definition of success and have them as referents, as inspiration to remind you that what you want is possible. But you’ll get rid of all the negative effects and negative feelings around the comparison.
Second, you’ll focus on what matters the most to YOU, not what matters the most to society. Even if it seems hard to unfollow what we’ve been conditioned to think. Changing our priorities to match our own definition of success will improve our lives for good.
Third, you’d reduce your stress levels and increase your happiness. Who wouldn’t want this!? I’m sure you have felt a lot of pressure on your shoulders thinking that you’re not successful enough. What if we remove that weight just by redefining what success means to you? Wouldn’t you be happier? I bet you will.
What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?
The biggest obstacle that stands in the way of redefining your own success is society and the way people care about what others have to say or what others might think. Even if it seems like an obstacle that’s impossible to overcome, I can assure you that you can change the way you feel about what other people think about you.
My best advice for overcoming this obstacle is to keep following your passion and your heart. Dive deep into your motivation and keep being faithful to your own definition.
Another obstacle I see in the way is thinking that you can only redefine success once and then you marry that decision. And the truth is that we are human beings and we’re constantly changing. So don’t be afraid to change the way you think, don’t be afraid of redefining your own success over and over again, as long as it is YOUR definition, and it is aligned with your values.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
On this series for sure! There are so many great people sharing their experiences and perspectives on how to redefine success that keeps reading this series in Authority Magazine is a great way to get started.
Other great sources are self-help books, listening to empowering podcasts, and surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Jim Rohn once said, “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with”, so you’d better start surrounding yourself with people who are following a definition to success that looks like yours, and not someone who keeps having a vision of it that goes against what you want.
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.
I’d love to have a private breakfast with Jamie Kern Lima. Her story is so incredible, I love how she followed her dreams no matter how many times she faced rejection. She is truly inspirational and if I happen to have the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her, I will ask her how she kept that flame lit up all the time. I can bet she redefined success on her own terms and she just had the right motivation who led her to follow a true passion.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I love connecting with like-minded people on Instagram! My IG handle is @alejandramarques_yourplana. If you’re reading this and it resonates with you, please send me a direct message and say hi, I’d love to connect with you.
Also, you can follow my latest news on my free Facebook Community: “Productivity & Balance for ambitious female entrepreneurs & biz owners”
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.