How Success Changes as You Get Older


For fellow high achievers, success is the victory at the end of all the hard work.

It’s when you get to sit back and celebrate the arrival at the end goal.  Perhaps you worked on the goal for a week, or maybe it was years in the making.

It doesn’t matter how long it took when you’ve completed your mission! says success is “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals.” 

In today’s world, success is a driving motivator and for some, the foundation of their sense of self-worth.

Everyone wants a successful life (myself included!), and there’s no shame in that!

But, did you know there are external successes as well as internal successes?

External successes are what most think of when they picture a successful life.  But, as you get older, your definition of success typically changes as those external milestones become less fulfilling.

Being aware of both your internal and external metrics for success will help you focus on the right things in life to create the life you crave.



For most people, success in life is ‘making it.'

‘Making it’ means having the big house, money in the bank, nice cars, annual vacations to exotic places, and all the other ‘things’ that signify achievement.

In today’s society, success means getting the right title on your business card and making 6-figures.  Until you hit those milestones, you are still working on being successful.

These are what I call external success.

External success is when you set goals for things on the outside of who you are.

The job title, the house, the car, the vacations...all the ‘things’ in your life.

That’s not to say that you don’t feel satisfaction internally, but the goal is about the external marks.

The drive behind this type of success is the appearance of success.  It’s a show for your friends, family, neighbors, and the world to see how successful you are in life.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but sometimes when you chase external things to define your success, you end up chasing someone else’s dream because you can’t see your own.



On the flip side...

Internal success is what drives you internally

While external success tends to sound somewhat similar to most people, internal success tends to vary quite a bit across people.  Since a lot of people have a hard time knowing what they want in life, they never consider what internal success would look like for themselves.

People, in general, are better at following the examples of others.  External success metrics clearly visible in the lives of others, so it’s easy for people to follow the path of what they think success means.

But, for internal success, it’s more challenging.

Yes, it’s easy to say that feeling of accomplishment or pride in a job well done is a strong motivator, but, to focus on internal success you have to dig deeper, and you have to think outside of your career.

To design a successful life, you have to think about your life as a whole, along with the feelings and emotions that you would feel if you were living the life of your dreams.

Perhaps you would feel loved and respected by your family and friends. Maybe you’d feel a sense of inner peace from a life of limited stress. Feeling fulfilled and living out a life that you feel has meaning and purpose may be what you need to live the life of your dreams.

Or, maybe it’s a combination of all of these.

I can’t tell you what your internal success looks like (those are some of mine!), but when you get clear on what it is, you start to fill your life with the people, activities, situations, and commitments that feed that life.

Sure, your job may factor into that piece, and for some, when they get clear on their internal success goals, they change careers to meet that objective further.

But, your job doesn’t necessarily have to factor into that.  It could simply be what gives you the money to live the rest of your life in alignment with those internal success goals.



As you grow up, messages bombarded you about what success is and it was all about the external achievements.

So it's understandable that you likely define success in those terms because that is all you’ve seen.

You go to college, get your fancy degrees (external success step #1), then embark on a career to climb rung after rung on that corporate ladder.

Along the way, you rack up titles, letters after your names, the right house on the right street, the expensive car,, etc. etc. etc.

You check off all the boxes, and by the time you hit your 40s, you’re the textbook definition of ‘successful.'

But, you’re only halfway through your life!  That’s great that you’ve achieved your definition of success at this stage, but what are you going to do for second half of your life?

Sure, you can keep chasing the external marks, but it’s typically around this time when it all starts to feel a little empty.

After doing everything you were supposed to do to be successful and having achieved society’s definition, it’s common to start to crave more.

When you hit this point in your life, the shift starts to happen.

Your definition of success changes as you slide into your 40s because YOU change.

You start to realize the letters after your name and the car you drive don’t matter as much as the relationships you have with the people in your life.

The joy you’re able to experience from doing things outside your comfort zone and away from the office is infinitely more enjoyable and rewarding.

Having a part in a child’s life and reading a book to them while they curl into your side trumps another sales victory.

Do you have to work solely towards internal versus external success?

No...I don’t think that’s realistic for most people.

It’s about balance.  It’s about knowing what your successful life looks like and making room for both the internal and external.

When you can do this, you start living an enriched, rewarding, and truly successful life.



It’s not bad to want to spend your life advancing in a career that you love.  But, if you don’t like your career and you feel stressed out and empty, then it’s time to look for a new definition of success.

As you get older, especially as you enter your 40s, the desire for more fulfillment and purpose typically starts to happen, which starts the shift from chasing external success metrics to internal.

You start to crave more outside of your job, and when you take the time to figure out what that means for you, you begin to live the life of your dreams.

If this resonated with you, I’d love to talk with you!  I’m currently in the middle of a research project where I am chatting with 100 women about this very issue.  I call it my 100 Coffee Chats project.  I have openings in my calendar to talk to you and hear your story!  Click HERE to find out more information and to schedule a time for us to chat!