Connect with your soul. We are souls having a human experience, not humans that simply have souls. When you understand that truth, start to tap into your soul and have the courage to listen to and follow your heart you change your trajectory. Heading that inner knowing will enable you to be successful in ways that are truly satisfying.
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 Dr. Ellen Albertson.
Dr. Ellen Albertson, known as the Midlife Whisperer, is a psychologist, registered dietician, national board-certified health and wellness coach, Reiki master, and Mindful Self-compassion teacher. She helps women transform themselves so they have the energy, confidence and clarity to make their best chapter their best chapter. An author, inspirational speaker and expert on women’s wellbeing, Dr. Ellen has appeared on Extra, the Food Network and NBC World News and has been quoted in Psychology Today, Eating Well and USA Today. She has written five books and articles for SELF, Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping. Dr. Ellen brings over 25 years of counseling, coaching and healing experience to her holistic practice and transformational work. She lives on the Champlain Islands of Vermont with her high-tech, raw-food loving partner, Ken and her tree-climbing Border Collie, Rosie. For more information, visit: https://drellenalbertson.com.
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?
My dissertation research had a huge impact in shaping my life. I wanted to offer women a sustainable solution, that would truly help them feel better about their bodies and themselves. My dissertation chair suggestions I study meditation.
Motivated to help reverse the ubiquitous, bad body image curse, I started googling. Using search terms like meditation, psychology, and self-care, I found Christopher Germer, a clinical psychologist and leading expert on mindfulness and compassion-based psychotherapy. I emailed Chris. Responding quickly, he suggested that I contact his colleague, self-compassion pioneer and researcher, Kristin Neff.
I reached out to Kristin, who agreed to be on my dissertation committee. Later she offered to help me publish my study on “Body Dissatisfaction and Self-compassion in Women” but on one condition: I had to take the Mindful Self-compassion training.
Taking the self-compassion training totally transformed me and my life and shaped who I am today. I used to motivate myself from a place of self-criticism thinking that once I was “perfect” or achieved some unattainable level of success, I’d love myself. Learning self-compassion shifted everything. I moved me from a place of self-loathing to self-love. Now when I work with clients I start by helping them love themselves and their next amazing chapter organically unfolds from there.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
I used to believe that success used to be contingent on obtaining things in the future. I used to feel like when I had that degree, wrote that book, landed that talk… then I’ll be successful and feel good about myself. Problem was I had a mental backpack filled with “not good enough,” which I carried into my future. As a result, I never felt happy or successful.
I used to believe that success was used about reaching these bizarre numerical metrics like weighing a certain amount, making so much money or having so many clients.
I also used to feel that I needed to criticize and beat myself up to be successful. I now know that self-criticism generates cortisol, shuts you down, and so actually undermines motivation and success.
How has your definition of success changed?
Now my definition of success is less about what I accomplish and more about how I feel and positively impact others. I define success as feeling happy, healthy, energized, and joyful in the present moment, which is all we have. It’s about following the 7 steps in my book, doing what you love, and sharing you gifts to inspire others and make the world a better place.
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?
Realizing that we are part of all that is we need to be kind and care about others and the planet as a whole. We need to stop looking to consuming stuff to make us happy and instead understand that happiness comes from within. We need to focus on well care, not sick care and make achieving a high level of wellness for EVERYONE a priority.
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
When we had time to spend with ourselves and cleared away all the business, I think people started to realize what truly matters in life. Our core values like love, family, health, and freedom became so important.
Professionally, my midlife clients and followers were looking for help finding happiness and meaning because they were forced to pause and contemplate where they were at in life. Many of the things that made them happy like traveling and spending time with family were stopped. I was surprised by how powerful and positive connecting with and supporting women virtually during these challenging times was.
Personally, four years after my divorce, I fell in love with an amazing man and got engaged. I moved out on to a romantic island on Lake Champlain in Vermont and am very happy.
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.)
- Stop and savor happy, meaningful moments
Rather than rushing around and getting swept into hustle culture take time out to be mindful. When something good happens celebrate and savor it. This will elevate your emotions and attract more positive emotions, opportunities, and success.
2. Be yourself, no one can tell you you’re doing it wrong.
I have a client Beth who was plagued with imposter syndrome. She felt that success was about showing up wearing a mask that other people would approve of. In our work together I helped her discover and appreciate her authentic self (which is the first step in my book). Gradually she started showing up more authentically in her personal and professional life and as a result she attracted success that was in alignment with who she really is and what she’s good at.
3. Practice self-compassion. Redefining success entails treating yourself like you would a good friend, which is the essence of self-compassion. You can’t be truly successful in a way that resonates with your soul unless you truly love yourself. When you practice self-compassion, you stop doing things which undermine success and you start doing things which support your success and wellbeing.
4. Do what makes you happy, not your spouse, boss, parents, friends, or… For years I was climbing a ladder of success, but it was up against the wrong building. I was doing things that others and society had told me would make me feel and be successful, but they never made me happy and resulted in burnout. I stopped being a people pleaser, and learned to please and define success for myself.
5. Connect with your soul. We are souls having a human experience, not humans that simply have souls. When you understand that truth, start to tap into your soul and have the courage to listen to and follow your heart you change your trajectory. Heading that inner knowing will enable you to be successful in ways that are truly satisfying.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
We would stop spending time doing things that don’t matter and focus instead on the things that do. We would value things like wellness, compassion, love, the environment, freedom… and make necessary changes in our lives to live in accordance with those 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?
Fear and worry. We worry about and are afraid of so many things — what others will think, what will happen to me if I…, will I have enough money to survive… As a result, we stay comfortably uncomfortable because we are scared to change. There are numerous ways to get unstuck, which is why I devote an entire chapter to it in Rock Your Midlife. To start realize that most of the things we worry about and are afraid of never happen. If you want to redefine success you have to overcome your fears. The truth is that FEAR stands for Face Everything And Rise AND False Evidence Appearing Real. Make a point every day to do things that scare you and this will help you to overcome those obstacles.
I also encourage people to connect with their core values. To do this, imagine that you are at the end of your life looking back at today. Ask yourself: What do I want my life to have stood for. These are your core values. Notice how you are and how you are not living in alignment with them.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
I look to my clients and followers who are redefining what success means at midlife. I read a lot of self-help books and biographies of people who have lived extraordinary lives. I also look within. I find writing and journaling help me to find information inside of myself to help me redefines success.
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 share a meal with Oprah. She has overcome so much and has redefined success for herself again and again and again. She is an incredible, inspiring example of someone who is living their best life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me on Instagram @the_midlife_whisperer and find me on my website themidlifewhisperer.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.