How it all started: 

I grew up being a typical Asian American — whether it was straight As, graduating from the top of my class or going to a good college, I strived hard. 

Why? Not because it was meaningful for me to score highly, but because it gave me a sense of accomplishment.

It felt good to get those words of approval from teachers, the admiration from classmates, and the passing nod of acknowledgement from parents. Positive feedback made me beam with satisfaction, even though I didn’t care too much for the classes I spent hours studying for.

As I got older and started working, I continued striving for outside validation, as it was the only thing I knew how. And when I started my business, I thought that I had finally freed myself from it all. 

I no longer looked to my colleagues to get reassurance that I did a good job and I no longer need to hinge my self-worth on my salary, or in other words, market value in the industry. Instead, I was coaching clients powerfully, doing something I loved, and making an impact in the world — I did everything from an intrinsic place.

Or so I thought I did. 

The A-ha moment: 

It wasn’t until the beginning of this year, with the help of my current coach, that I realized I was running on autopilot with something deeper inside of me. I was operating under the subconscious belief that striving gave me the ultimate sense of purpose.

In other words, I was addicted to the suffering, to the day to day struggle.

WHAT. Why would anyone do that?! You might ask.

The short answer is that because it’s familiar. It’s what gives me comfort and it was the only thing I knew how to do. From a scientific point of view, our brains like to feel the same way because it gives us a sense of security. Studies have also shown that whether it’s anger or helplessness, we can get addicted to these emotions.

So while on the surface, I was trying to turn myself from a struggling to a successful entrepreneur, deep inside, I held on tightly to the ‘struggling entrepreneur’ identity that I had created for myself.

Self-sabotage at its finest, right? 

Our thoughts always have payoffs and mine was this:

I need to keep on striving and struggling, because once the struggle goes away and I become successful, I don’t know what else I would strive for. It feels like meaning would be lost and I would have no purpose.

Oh my goodness, can you relate?

Because I had so intricately intertwined accomplishments with purpose, I was scared to reach my ultimate goal, because I would then be purposeless. After all, where else would I get the high and satisfaction from always striving and trying to reach my goals?

Even though coaching was my purpose, I was still gaining fulfillment with goals: How many people did I coach? What results were they able to achieve? Did I reach my ideal number in my business?

It’s one of the most beautiful examples of how our thoughts and beliefs can dictate our actions so contrary to our desires. Especially without us knowing it — and this is exactly why I’ve incorporated mindset as foundation into my coaching now.

Integrating this insight into my life: 

One of the gifts of building a business is that your thinking becomes so amplified and out in the open. I could clearly see how my thinking was causing the results in my business. 

It took a while to detach striving from purpose, and even now it’s an ongoing process. In terms of what helped, first I had to let go of the belief that struggle and sacrifice is necessary. Specifically in the sense that even if I don’t struggle, I am worthy of rewards. I don’t need to exert tons of effort to be deserving of a good life. I am already good, whole, and worthy.

Therefore, I no longer need to strive to get the good feelings I get from achieving a goal. I no longer need to struggle to get the feelings that I am deserving of good things. 

Because my sense of purpose isn’t tied to goals anymore, I am feel purposeful and fulfilled in the moment. By just being. Well-being is intrinsic within us and can be accessed at any time. 

No accomplishments are needed. 

This has been SUCH a big change for me, because now I can fully be in the present with my clients, which leads to even better coaching. I can make decisions from a space of clarity and unconditional love for myself, which leads to even more fulfillment. And most of all, I am no longer living in the future, thinking that it’ll be all better when I get to a certain goal.

I am already so blissful and joyful in the moment. 

There’s really no other place I’d rather be! And this state of being has translated to direct tangible results as well, from creating 4 new coaching clients last month, to traveling around the world as a digital nomad for 6 months, to being so giddy in love with the love of my life and my coaching business.

All possible because I had learned that happiness comes from within first.


  • Yunzhe Zhou

    Business + Creative Coach for Asian Americans

    Yunzhe Zhou is the business and creative coach behind She helps Asian Americans leave the 9-5 and gain the confidence and clarity to start their own creative businesses. As a result of working with Yunzhe, her clients from traditional backgrounds such as Fortune 500 and top tech companies have built their own successful paths as writers, artists and entrepreneurs. Yunzhe's work and holistic style of coaching have been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and other leading publications. She's also the founder of the One Month Projects framework, the ARTS podcast (Asians Redefining Their Success), and loves all things creative: whether it's Zumba dancing, painting or making travel videos. You can follow Yunzhe on LinkedIn where you'll find her talking about career experimentation, life lessons and traveling around the world as a digital nomad.