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Women and Success


Is the quest for success wearing you out? We women may be from Venus, but in our desire to have it all, we have been spending way too much time on Mars! We have bought into the idea that success is about the bottom line, financial achievement, status and winning. We have looked to our relationships, our salaries, our achievements and our possessions to define ourselves and measure our

And we have mastered "doing". We have become skilled at working full-time jobs, all the while managing our homes, our families and our primary life relationships.

But at what price? Personally, I reached the point where I had to admit that my level of doingness had evolved into full-blown workaholism and was threatening my health, my family and my sanity.
I first set out to master the material world years ago when I attended a seminar called "Yes! To Success", an intense three-day program where I learned how to set goals (daily, weekly, monthly, one-year, five-year and lifetime), how to manage time and how to dress for success. I still find many of the techniques I learned then to be valuable tools for managing life today.

But somewhere along the way something shifted inside me. Going over my goals once or twice a day in the hope that I could somehow make it all happen, I began to see that activity like this was mostly about doing, often characterized as a masculine quality.

And about three years ago, the effect of this approach to living started to become clear, when I found myself frustrated and dissatisfied with the person I was becoming. Despite having done a great deal of work on myself, I was still critical, judgmental and controlling, I didn’t like my husband, and I spent a lot of time pretending that he was responsible for my unhappy state. My body hurt all the time.

Our circumstances were trying. I spent half my life (so it seemed) making the six-hour drive between two homes in the Midwest; one in Minnesota, one in Iowa. We had uprooted our comfortable, small-town living situation when the company my husband worked for moved everyone to their Minneapolis headquarters (we kept our Iowa home because it was my base of business). Just months later, my husband was laid off. But by this time, my stepson was thriving at his new high school.

Together, we decided that my husband would not look for another job, but take time to do some writing and pursue interests he had never had the time for. My income was sufficient for us to live on at the time, and I loved my speaking work, so it was not a pressure for me to support the family, in fact, I was happy to do it.
Then, like so many industries and professions, the speaking field was hit hard when the events of 9/11 occurred. Slowly, what had been my primary livelihood began drying up.

What more can I do? would have been my normal response to this situation at one time. But I didn’t want to do more. I was exhausted, as I had been for years mentally, physically and emotionally from all the driving, managing two homes, and the stagnation that seemed to be settling into my marriage as my husband and I sat in front of our laptops all day. And although I had very little work, I always seemed to be working.
Instinctively, I felt that if I were to find balance in life, that elusive thing most women in our society are struggling to find, it would have to be by culturing whatever was the opposite of masculine drive, energy and focus: the so-called feminine aspects of nature. As I sought to learn more about the feminine, I became more and more intrigued by the possibility that the deeper, feminine principles at play within every human being are as much a part of successful, happy living as the so-called masculine ones.

I began talking to women and collecting their stories. And my discoveries were both surprising and life changing.

I discovered simple themes like honesty, self-love, forgiveness, integrity and surrender. You may look at some of these words and immediately think, Oh, I already have that one, and I’ve got that one down and that one, too. Some of these words may make you react strongly. I understand because I, too, am a woman who does not do well with a word like "surrender" ! Even the word feminine is one that can push a woman’s buttons these days, conjuring up images ranging from frills to submission.
But far more than qualities, these words are principles that, when operating in a person’s life, can deeply influence and enliven the soul’s destiny: intention, intuition, faith, courage, compassion, attention, self-expression.

I am learning that these feminine principles are, simply, more about "being" than "doing". Humility, openness, commitment, wholeness. As many writers and speakers have pointed out, we are human beings, not human doings. When we combine the receptivity, the intuition, the healing and the humanity of the feminine with our ability to act in the world, life changes for the better. We get to relax. We get to feel at peace with whatever is going on around us. We get to tap into the magical river of life where our days seem to flow.

And we are able to know, with the deepest understanding possible, that these are the things that make life truly successful. This is the innate and authentic power of the feminine and the true soul of success.
I have learned that practicing self-love is harder than we think and the key to everything. That the relationship between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual is more than a New Age platitude, it’s the key to healing on every level, which is fundamental to true success. I’ve learned that how I live my life at this moment, no matter what I’m doing, is more important than any plan for the future. And I’ve learned that divine grace is at work in the universe 24/7 all we have to do is open to it.

Don’t get me wrong; I care about money and being admired by others, too. But these days, I find that I care much more about other things like spirituality, passion for living and trusting the never-failing guidance of my heart. I don’t want to lead a mundane existence. I want to feel that most of what I do is meaningful, and I want to explore new territory all the time. For some time now, my mantra has been: I want to be in the world in a new way.

I believe that most of us long to return to a more balanced way of living. We want a new barometer of success that includes inner experience. In fact, we hunger for inner riches along with outer ones, and we feel ourselves poised to break through to a different and deeper experience of success in our personal and professional lives success that includes a sense of peace, freedom and deep fulfillment.
Ever and always, I want to be in the world in a new way. Please, come with me.

Adapted from the introduction to The Soul of Success: A Woman’s Guide to Authentic Power, Health Communications, Inc., copyright 2004 Jennifer Read Hawthorne,


Jennifer Read Hawthorne is the author of Soul of Success: A Woman’s Guide to Authentic Power. She has co-authored such bestsellers as Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul. See



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One Response to “Women and Success”

  1. […] Women and Success | Cyndi’s Work at Home Blog – view page – cached Is the quest for success wearing you out? We women may be from Venus, but in our desire to have it all, we have been spending way too Filter tweets […]