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Redefining Success To Focus on What’s Really Important

I'm Rishma!

Naturopathic Doctor & PhD turned scientific creative, travel adventurer, joy seeker, book lover, mom of two amazing humans, wife to her best friend. 

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What does success really mean to you? Have you ever tried to reach a goal, and then achieved it, and realized that you don’t want it anymore? Or maybe you’ve questioned your goals and dreams themselves. Why do you want to accomplish that goal? Is it aligned with your values in life and your vision of yourself?

In this episode, I share a personal (and vulnerable) story about something that I tried, was excited about, and ‘failed’. Or at least I thought it did.

Professionally, I was trained as a Naturopathic Doctor and PhD. I spent about 20 years in clinical practice working with hormones and fertility (none of which prepared me to raise my two pre-teen daughters!). 

[After spending a long time helping people make huge decisions in their lives (related to family planning, IVF, etc), I’ve transitioned into researching and sharing about intentional decision making and the science of personal growth. A lot of my work is related to self-awareness and emotion that often guides (or misleads) our life choices.

Making a big pivot in life

After I had closed my clinical practice. I was trying to walk the talk and listen to my own advice that I would give my patients almost every day. Make sure to take care of yourself, whatever that means and looks like for you.  

What started off as honestly, a mental and physical break to avoid burnout, stretched out into an opportunity to think about what I wanted to accomplish and contribute to the world next and what that would look like going forward. 

I loved working with patients but I was working through some of my own struggles with finding balance, and living life in a way that was aligned with where I was. 

I started journaling – and if you’re not a fan of journaling – I totally understand. I also find it challenging to write things down, especially on a blank page. 

Intentional Journaling For a Purpose

Because I had set an intention, a purpose, for my journaling, I found it easier. I knew what I wanted to accomplish – and it was to get clarity. 

  • Clarity on what I wanted in life, a deeper understanding of myself, to bring to the surface my hopes and fears, my limiting beliefs and my deepest insecurities. I wanted to plan for my future and if needed, change my internal dialogue. 

So I journaled. And slowly it took on a life of it’s own. People started asking me about it, wanting to do it too.  Yes, not a book club although I have one now too, but a journaling club. We would gather, usually once a month, online, I’d offer up some prompts – deep thinking, challenging prompts – and we’d sit together and journal on our own.

Then usually we’d also share a bit at the end, a realization, a thought, a memory. It gave us more insight into ourselves by listening and holding space for others. 

Over time, people started asking me to share my prompts, which I did, and they would journal on their own, in different circumstances and different phases of life. 

Starting Something New

That’s when it happened.  Almost a year into my journal club. I woke up that night at 4am with a realization that I could turn my prompts into a book. After all, I had over 150 prompts that I was using – for confidence, for inspiration, for health and wellness, for self reflection – and it was just the beginning! I had so many more ideas.

I was finally pumped about helping people again, after having taken time off to help me.

I was excited at the potential of offering an actual physical product that I made, that was easy to use, but could have a deeper impact on others. And I was hoping to turn this new focus of mine, on personal growth and proactive wellness, into a business that could help me share what I know and love and am learning – while also starting to give me an income. Because that’s real life. Sales would validate and sustain my efforts. The time and energy I pour into my projects and into people.

Excited about a new project

I did a happy dance, yes at 4am, quietly on my tip toes and in the dark and then I spent the next, I don’t know, many many hours collecting my prompts, creating encouraging messages (they look like affirmations in the journal but they’re deeper – you can listen to my episode on affirmations to know the science behind them). 

And then I set out to publish the journal and sell it.

Creating and selling a product

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to make a physical product or a book or anything like that but when you don’t know what you’re doing, it seems like an easy thing to do. Well for me it wasn’t. 

  • I had to find someone to format it, and had several people back out, one person who did – I paid him after seeing the proofs – and then he didn’t send me the final files that I needed. I had 2 people create covers that I didn’t like. I had to re-format a million times because Amazon is so particular about formatting and I knew nothing about that.

Having supportive friends

I remember talking to someone about it, many months later, telling her that this tiny little project, or what I thought was a tiny little project, shouldn’t be taking me this long. I had already spent so much money and time and energy that it felt like a really uphill process. I was not expecting that.

But she encouraged me to keep going, knowing that I was passionate about it, that I was able to help other people, and that in the end it would be worth it.

The joy of completion

So I kept going and finally, got it done. 

I felt like a rockstar. It’s so pretty, it even has a cool photo on the front of a kind of gemstone that gives that metaphorical clarity message (thanks to my friend Jamie who designed it at the last minute when I was so fed up over this project). 

I was so happy with the way it turned out. And my friends said they loved it. So I launched it. My first product, in my new business, on Amazon – a platform that has a huge reach. I learned about advertising and marketing and publishing. I posted about it, sent emails, did online advertising.

Well you know that saying, build it and they will come? Well they didn’t come.  Now I’m not delusional, it’s a journal. I knew it wasn’t going to be a New York Times bestselling journal featured on Oprah. Wouldn’t that be cool? 

But I put a lot into it, both creating it and publishing it. And I had hopes, expectations even, that it would be well received and make an impact, however much, in people’s lives. 

We sold 18 copies on launch week. 

I’m forever grateful to those 10 people (yes 8 of the sales were to me, and my mom).

But I was disappointed. In my mind, after all that effort, it was a flop.

Felt like a failure

I could accept that even though I am really proud of the journal and it impacted me in a meaningful way, and hopefully impacted a few other people in a deep way, that maybe that’s it. I put a lot of effort into something that didn’t really take off. 

I could feel like it was wasted time, money, energy. 

I could feel like it was a creative project, I completed it, and now it’s time to move on.

Or, I could look for ways to re-define success in my mind.

Success that I could never have imagined

One day at the dinner table, we were playing a game and talking about if you could swap days with anyone in the world, who would it be? And my daughter Kaiya said she wanted to be me for a day because I have a really cool job. 

[immediate tear in my eye and a very full heart]

When Kaiya was 13 years old, she finished and published her very first fantasy fiction novel. She had a copy in her hands, because I knew how to make it happen after creating my journal.

She started writing her story during the pandemic. While she was home in virtual school. While I was off from the clinic, journaling, starting a podcast, and hosting workshops. She was writing and feeling inspired and now she’s able to feel proud of something that put her hard work into. She can feel accomplished.

When I think about what she’s done, the effort she’s put in, the internal drive, the time, and the courage to finish an entire book. I’m gushing with pride. 

What success really looks like for me

This is what success really looks like to me. It took me some time to figure out that following my heart, and trying hard, putting myself out there, learning something new and making mistakes could give me other things that were so much more meaningful than a work deadline or sales goal. 

For her book, it felt easy to publish. I had already gone through all the hoops and hurdles. I knew how to format it and design it. While she was in the throws of writing, I was able to entice her to finish through the more grueling moments (which was for sure the editing) by showing her what her book would look like.

You never know who you’re impacting

By then, she had already seen and held a copy of my Clarity Journal. She was watching my efforts whether either of us realized it or not. 

Now she’s a published author, and is already working on her next one. Whether she ends up with one book, or ten, she sees what’s possible for her. 

Too often we think of success in measurable quantities, how many were sold, what’s my job title, how much money do I make. And yes, all of those things are important and arguably necessary even. 

Maybe we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. Maybe we’d take a little more risk. Maybe we’d have a bit more confidence. Maybe we’d see more opportunities.  Maybe we’d feel more successful in everything we do.

Be sure to check out the rest of the series on re-defining success!

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Travel adventurer, joy seeker, book lover

Hi, I'm Rishma.
Your BFF + New
Life Strategist.

I ran a thriving healthcare practice as a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist for over 20 years. I also earned my PhD and spent time in academic research and teaching positions. Now, I read scientific studies because I'm passionate about personal growth. I use the insights to help me, and our community, live our own XO life.

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