The Perception of Success

In a world where success stories are often glamorized, it’s worth pondering the true nature of success. I started this contemplation when listening to Brooke Castillo’s podcast episode “Success is Hard” (Life Coach School podcast) where she addresses the misconception that success is effortlessly achieved. The podcast resonates with a crucial message: while success may seem easy for some, the journey is often marked by unseen challenges and relentless perseverance.

Defining Success: A Positive Psychology Perspective

Success is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Positive psychology suggests that success is deeply personal and multifaceted, encompassing not just professional achievements but also personal fulfilment, happiness, and well-being. It’s a harmonious blend of achieving goals and finding contentment in the journey itself.

Renowned positive psychologist Martin Seligman categorizes such happiness into the five elements (of the now famous PERMA theory of wellbeing): Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. These components suggest that success extends beyond material gains to include a sense of purpose and contentment in life (Seligman, 2011).

The Illusion of Effortless Success

Social media platforms like Instagram (Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) often showcase the highlight reel of success, painting a picture of effortless achievements. This portrayal can create a skewed perception that success is easily attainable, leading to unrealistic expectations and potential disillusionment when faced with real-life challenges.

If we follow Brooke C’s (and others’ ) line of thought, success may seem easy because it’s simple in concept: set a goal, attempt various strategies, and persist until you achieve it. However, that simplicity doesn’t equate to easiness; it’s the emotional challenges in this journey that make success hard. Understanding and navigating these emotional hurdles are key to truly achieving success.

Embracing the Hardship of Success

Contrary to the glorified narratives, success is hard-earned. It demands facing oneself honestly, showing up consistently, and embracing vulnerability. Success involves facing emotional challenges like doubt, worry, and fear. It’s about stepping out of the “cave of comfort” and standing alone, even when it’s uncomfortable or unconventional (quoting B. Castillo & LCS podcast – see below).

Several concrete reasons why “success is hard” include:

  • Facing Emotional Challenges: Success requires confronting difficult emotions like doubt, fear, and confusion.
  • Consistent Show Up: You need to show up every day, even when there’s no clear path forward.
  • Vulnerability to Judgment: Putting yourself out there means being willing to be judged or ridiculed by others.
  • Owning Your Journey: Success involves taking full responsibility for your actions and results, rather than blaming external factors.

A Balanced Approach to Achieving Success

As introduced earlier, the secret to success may therefore lie in a simple yet challenging process: setting a goal, trying different approaches, learning from failures, and persistently moving forward. This journey is straightforward in concept but emotionally demanding in practice. It’s about continuous learning, self-ownership, and emotional resilience.

The cycle of setting goals, trying, failing, learning, and persisting is a practice that fosters evolution and growth. Each failure is a lesson, and each attempt is a step closer to mastery. This process is crucial for:

  • Evolving: With each iteration, you learn and adapt, becoming more adept in your field.
  • Overcoming Obstacles: Each challenge you face and overcome builds resilience and resourcefulness.
  • Learning Perseverance: The journey teaches you the value of persistence and the importance of not quitting in the face of setbacks.
  • Practicing Self-Compassion: Amidst the pursuit of success, it’s vital to treat yourself with kindness and understanding, recognizing your worthiness at every stage.

How My Coaching Practice Can Support Your Journey to Success

As an emotional intelligence and leadership coach, I am committed to guiding you through this complex journey of achieving success – under your own terms.

Here’s how I can support you:

  1. Developing Personalized Strategies: We will identify your unique definition of success and create a tailored plan to pursue it.
  2. Enhancing Emotional Intelligence: Together, we’ll work on understanding and managing your emotions, turning potential obstacles into stepping stones.
  3. Cultivating Resilience: I will help you build resilience, enabling you to face challenges with courage and grow from them.
  4. Fostering a Growth Mindset: We’ll nurture a mindset that embraces learning and sees every setback as an opportunity for growth.
  5. Providing Accountability and Encouragement: My role is to keep you accountable, treat you with respect and curiosity, and remind you of your worthiness every step of the way.

In conclusion, while success may seem easy at a glance, it is indeed a challenging yet rewarding journey. With the right mindset, strategies, and support, you can navigate this path and realize your fullest potential. Never give up on what your heart desires, and remember, you are already worthy of every success.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sophie



  1. Castillo, B. (2023, March 23). Success is hard [Audio podcast episode]. In The Life Coach School Podcast. The Life Coach School. Retrieved from
  2. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Free Press.