Success is a journey we’re all on, whether we realize it or not. It’s the journey of becoming the highest version of ourselves… the manifestation of our unique blend of genius, talents and genetics through our life experiences.

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. Irene Cop.

As founder of the Stress to Success S.H.I.F.T. Institute, Dr. Irene Cop helps purpose-driven high achievers shift from stress to success in all areas of life: their career & wealth, health & energy, relationships & personal life.

Dr. Irene’s comprehensive background and expertise spans both Eastern and Western medicine, holding dual doctor degrees as a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, with extensive training in acupuncture, neuroplasticity, elite performance psychology, stress management, and resilience.

Dr. Irene is a globally sought-after speaker, neurophysiological meditation instructor, and host of the internationally acclaimed podcast, The Stress to Success S.H.I.F.T.

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?

Have you ever heard people say a near-death experience changed them forever? It does.

Years ago, I was physically burned out, developed a health condition, and didn’t know it. I crashed and burned… literally.

I lost consciousness while driving in northern Canada and drove straight into a massive rock face.

I broke ten bones and suffered a mild head injury, feeling the purest pain ever as I sat trapped for hours while the firefighters used the Jaws of Life to cut me out of the wreckage.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it by far. My two young sons were in the car with me that day.

My four-year-old son suffered a catastrophic brain injury and was airlifted to the nearest pediatric hospital three hours away to undergo emergency life-saving surgery.

My six-year-old son developed PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) because the scene was so gory that adults were vomiting at the scene.

It was during the first SARS, and I was quarantined in hospital.

I couldn’t see my sons and was going crazy with fear for them.

Worse yet were the shame, guilt, and remorse I felt at almost killing the two people who meant the most to me in the world.

My inner judge and jury tried and convicted me of being an incompetent mother. An incompetent doctor. A monster.

As I spiraled down in fear, guilt, and shame — forget the physical pain — I hit the lowest moment of my life.

Sobbing in a dark hospital room all alone, I cried, “Why me?”

I wondered if I had any right to raise my children. Any right to treat and help others. Any right to live.

However, in that moment, I realized I had a choice to make. I could continue to be sucked down in this hell of physical, mental, and emotional pain.

Or I could give myself the same grace I would give one of my patients or loved ones.

I could accept that I was merely a statistic. One of hundreds of millions of others throughout the world that were chronically stressed and burned out.

That burnout was a silent pandemic wreaking havoc on the world’s mental, emotional, and physical health, directly causing or contributing to all the top killers globally.


It was encouraged by our society and the current programming around success — that you had to prove you were valuable by chasing the holy grail of achievement and money.

That burnout was a “dirty secret” where we were taught that we were lazy, weak, and failures if we admitted to it.

I recognized that, with my education and now personal experience, I was the perfect one to lead the charge to eliminate the shame and stigma surrounding burnout.

To eradicate burnout and its potentially catastrophic consequences.

That near-fatal car accident became my trial by fire, where I emerged transmuted with a powerful purpose and mission.

To help my family heal against all odds, and then the world.

Fast forward to today, we have accomplished the first goal.

My youngest son wasn’t supposed to be able to walk, talk, or pass high school, yet he has done all three and is in his final year of engineering at university.

Now, I’m on a mission to guide others to shift from stress to success in all areas of their lives — to help as many people and families as possible avoid the fate our family suffered.

That is why I’m so happy to be part of this interview series on Redefining Success!

We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?

Coming from a poor farmer background, I was raised to believe that:

  • Success meant achieving to be happy, to prove my value, to prove my lovability.
  • Success was only for others with some “intangible” special quality… the “Have’s”.
  • Success meant being wealthy and moving in that rarefied circle of rich jetsetters.
  • For the rest of us, success had too great a price to pay. That it was “better to play safe and small because the higher you go, the harder you fall.”
  • I didn’t have what it took to be successful. It wasn’t who I was.
  • The best regular people like me could aim for was to live comfortably, having just enough to provide for our needs and some of our wants if we saved long enough.
  • Rich people were arrogant, selfish, and greedy — that they had ‘more money than brains’, so why would I want to be one of them anyway?

How has your definition of success changed?

I now recognize that the conventional definition of success as the “need to achieve to be happy” is a recipe for disappointment, lost dreams, and burnout.

To me, true success now means having the freedom to live life on my terms, in all areas of life.

In my career, it means working consistently in my zone of genius and fulfilment, contributing to the universe in the biggest way possible.

In my wealth, it means enjoying the challenge of increasing my revenue, knowing that I will then have even more resources to add value to the world.

In my health and energy, it means having the comfort, ability, and vitality to have the longest, healthiest, most enjoyable life possible.

It means having fun, intimate, loving, mature relationships, and knowing that I am infinitely valuable and lovable, just because I’m a child of the universe.

In my personal life, it means contributing to the world at the highest level, while enjoying the highest quality of life possible.

You truly can’t have success in one area of your life while neglecting the others.

Finally, success is an inside job. It’s not dependent on outside factors.

It’s up to you to choose what success looks like for you, then understand that the true freedom and fulfilment is about the experience of the journey rather than the destination.

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?

I see the pandemic as a beautiful opportunity to awaken from the trance of fear, powerlessness, and need for security that has gripped the world for too long.

That need for security has dictated how the vast majority of people have lived their lives. This has typically meant that most people haven’t truly lived up to their full potential and experienced everything they wanted because they’ve allowed fear to stop them.

I’ve worked with so many people at the end of their lives, and the predominate feeling they’ve felt was remorse — that they were so afraid of, well everything, that they didn’t really live.

The pandemic has shown us that there is no real security outside of our own ability to handle whatever adversity life dishes out.

It has shown us that there is no safety in playing safe and small, so why bother?

This awakening has shown us that the only genuine security is in developing our own self-belief, confidence, and value so that we know we have what it takes to succeed in whatever endeavor we choose.

This awakening has been the catalyst behind the Great Resignation.

What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.

Often, we must get close to hitting rock bottom before change happens, and this pandemic’s fallout has been no exception.

The very stress and fear the pandemic has birthed have unveiled the dirty secret of burnout. It’s brought mental health challenges out in the open so that people are no longer suffering in silence and shame, mistakenly believing that they’re broken or deficient.

Just as an abscess (an infection under the skin) will fester and cause even more damage if allowed to avoid the open air, burnout and mental health challenges have wreaked havoc as people have struggled alone in the dark.

Now, it’s out in the open and is finally receiving the attention and care it deserves.

Top athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have courageously prioritized their mental health and withdrawn from competition, and the few highly vocal critics were quickly drowned out in the upwelling of support.

Real-life heroes like healthcare workers, first responders, and veterans who’ve soldiered on alone mistakenly believing that they had to be tough and go it alone, are now openly admitting they’re burned out.

Thanks to these courageous actions and others, we’re now having an open, candid conversation around mental health.

More and more, people the world over are realizing that they’re not alone. They’re not broken. They are supported.

As painful as the past couple of years has been, I believe we’re ushering in a new era where people are recognizing that they deserve to have the life they want now, because the future isn’t promised.

This again, is a major force behind the Great Resignation.

People are no longer staying in positions they hate out of the fear and belief that they’re not worthy of anything better.

People are waking up and realizing that tomorrow isn’t promised, so it’s up to them.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways to Redefine Success Now?”

[Here’s the YouTube link to the 5 Things Video: ]

  1. Your value is independent of your level of achievement. You’re already successful, right here, right now.

A baby is valuable just because they exist. They have nothing to prove. Somewhere along the way, we’ve been taught that we need to prove our worth through achievements or status. It’s time to learn that our value and success are not intertwined — that we are already worthy of love, happiness, and success just because we are.

Success is a journey we’re all on, whether we realize it or not. It’s the journey of becoming the highest version of ourselves… the manifestation of our unique blend of genius, talents and genetics through our life experiences.

2. The success journey is simply a vehicle for growth.

Growth can seem like such a nebulous thing, and yet it is an innate drive within all of us. Look at the genius of a baby for proof. A baby isn’t satisfied with being taken care of and even loved completely as it lies, totally dependent on its caregivers. No! A baby instinctively pushes itself to roll over, then sit up, crawl, walk, and talk as it pushes for independence and freedom.

3. Failure is necessary for success.

To see this, look at a toddler. The toddler doesn’t fall down once or even twice and then give up, saying to themselves, “I’m a failure at this walking thing. I might as well give up now.” In fact, failing (or falling in this case) is the best way to course correct and succeed faster as you learn how not to do things.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten the genius of the baby and the value of failure, believing that if we don’t get something right the first time, we’re failures and will never be able to. We allow fear to block us from even trying once or trying hard enough to succeed.

Finally, failure helps you succeed and manage that success better. Top child actors, such as those of Harry Potter fame, have stated that they didn’t know where their work lives ended, and their own lives began because they didn’t have the slow ramp up in their careers that most actors have. Many, like Emma Watson and Macaulay Culkin have retired or turned to coping mechanisms like drug abuse in their attempts to deal with the stress.

4. True success means having the freedom to live life on your terms, in all areas of life.

When someone says they want to be financially successful, they’re really saying that they want to have the freedom to live how they want, and not be dependent on the whims of others.

The second important point here is that you must have success in all areas of your life, rather than just the old way of thinking it refers only to your career and wealth. Otherwise, you’re in danger of sacrificing your health, relationships, or personal life. For example, being a celebrity is almost synonymous with having a string of broken relationships or an early death, like Prince, David Bowie, and Carrie Fisher.

Therefore, if you only have career success without the others, then you’re not free. You’re in a gilded cage of your own making.

5. Success is an inside job.

The old way of viewing the success ladder was that you needed to get educated, be connected, and work hard. It was all about strategies on the fastest way to make it to the top. A huge dollop of luck helped.

The new success paradigm is that all the education, connections, and strategies in the world won’t help you if you haven’t done the internal work to set you up for success.

After years of searching for the answers behind my own and my clients’ burnout stories, I recognized that there are 5 internal ingredients necessary for true success:

  1. Shift from Stress to Success Mode using SOS tools.

This is so important because, when you’re in Survival Mode, your brain’s executive team is offline. That means you’re not able to think logically, find creative solutions, make good decisions, act on those decisions, or keep your emotions in check so that you can effectively work.

Have you found lately that you’ve felt like a hamster on a wheel, paralyzed, or simmering like the Hulk is about to burst out of you? That’s because your thinking brain has taken a hiatus with all the chronic stress of the past couple of years.

Until you do the SOS tools to calm your stress, you’re not free. You’re stuck in Survival Mode.

2. Recognize that you do have choice and control.

When you’re stressed out, it can seem like you’re powerless — like life is being done to you. You’re overwhelmed with anxiety, worry, and overwhelm.

However, Holocaust-survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl said that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Therefore, you always have choice and control even if it’s not the kind you’d like.

As long as you believe you have no choice, you’re not free. You’re in a cage of your own making.

3. Create a vision that fits your infinite potential and genius.

Most people are afraid to dream big — or dream at all. I’ve worked with so many people who were at the end of their life, and the predominant emotion they felt was remorse because they had allowed their fears to stop them from living the life they really wanted. I want so much more for you!

Remember that you’re already valuable. That success is just a vehicle for you to grow into the person you have the potential to be. That failure is necessary for success. That true success involves all areas of your life.

It’s time to ask yourself, “What does successful health and energy look like to me? Successful relationships? A successful personal life? And yes, a successful career and wealth?”

Because if you’re not working on your own big vision, you’re a worker bee in someone else’s. Guaranteed.

4. Choose your Ikigai — your big purpose.

As Nietzsche said, when you have your WHY, you can endure almost anything while on your life journey toward your big vision. It also causes your brain’s executive team to leap into action for working on your vision.

That’s why it’s so important to have a WHY that is congruent with your vision.

If you don’t have a purpose, you’re not free. You’re lost.

5. Ramp up your belief.

The final step is to check your level of belief.

What is your belief in your ability to succeed? What is your belief in others, whether they’ll support your vision and/or need your value? What is your belief that it’s even possible to come true?

If your belief isn’t strong, you’re not free. It’s just wishful thinking and fantasy, just like in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

You need to complete all five of these steps before you can enjoy true success in all areas of life. Success is truly an inside job!

How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?

Life will be so much more enjoyable once we all redefine success and choose the journey we wish to travel for the sake of growth, challenge, and fulfillment. We will recognize that even the adversity we invariably experience is another vehicle for growth and expansion, so that the sting is taken out of it.

What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?

In my research, I’ve identified four major barriers to success: your victim sabotage patterns, fears, programming, and traumas (personal, intergenerational, and epigenetic). The biggest of all these is your programming, because that will influence your victim sabotage patterns, your fears, and even how you respond to trauma throughout life.

These barriers are the reason over 90% of people fail to make lasting change or succeed at their goals. The challenge is that, just as the biggest and most dangerous part of an iceberg is hidden underwater, your programming is hidden in your unconscious.

The first and foremost tool I teach is at the conscious level. Awakening awareness around your success blocks is 80% of the battle and solution. That’s why I’ve created a free workbook by the same name that guides you through this very exercise.

In my experience, working with top CEO’s, performers, and athletes, as well as regular people like you and me, that you need to metaphorically lift the carpet to see any dirt beneath in order to properly clean it out. Likewise, you need to be aware of your barriers before you can clear them fully.

Once you’ve awakened your awareness to your success blocks, you need to use tools and resources that eliminate those barriers at the unconscious level. There are a number of different ways to accomplish this, and I’ve employed what I feel are the quickest, easiest, and most powerful in my Retrain Your Brain method.

They include such tools like self-hypnotherapy, active meditation mindfulness, brain gym, Emotional Freedom Technique (from an acupuncture standpoint), and Trauma Tapping Technique.

Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?

I derived my personal definition of success after my own burnout and near-death experience. Since then, I’ve looked far and wide for answers on to live life well on all levels because I believed that you could have success, health, and happiness too.

I’ve been heavily influenced by authors such as Gay Hendricks, Anthony DeMello, U.S. Andersen, Eckert Tolle, Rod Hairston, Carlo Rovelli, and so many more than I can name right now.

I’ve modeled my success philosophy on the ideas and actions of giants like Dr. Viktor Frankl, Nelson Mandela, and Oprah Winfrey.

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.

Oh wow, it’s hard to choose just one! While there are so many I’d love to learn from more, I’d choose Oprah Winfrey.

Why? Oprah is one of my biggest role models because she started her success journey with nothing more than her self-belief, big vision, and purpose. She grew along the way into the person she needed to be to positively influence people the world over, contribute at the highest level, and have an amazing life too. I would like to thank her personally for being that same role model for hundreds of million young women.

Oprah has been the example of possibility for all who’ve experienced substantial life adversity, showing them that they’re not alone. That there is hope and a way to a better life. It all starts with having a big vision, purpose, and self-belief, and knowing that we all have the same ability to follow our success journey.

How can our readers further follow your work online?





Stress to Success S.H.I.F.T. podcast:

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.