The Mindful Academy – Episode 3.10 Highlights

Successful academics know that they can’t do it all – or at least not all at once. 

So a key step in getting a grip on your overwhelm is to decide what success looks & feels like for you. 

The answer to the question: what does success look like for me is NOT, however, a list of check-offable goals. A book, an R1 grant, this much $$, this many citations, this many articles, etc. NOPE. 

I will feel successful when . . .
I will love my work when . . . 
Success to me has always meant . . . 

Please allow yourself to be honest, to dream, to even be wildly unrealistic here – because you neeeeeed to tap into your desires and dreams and values when it comes to thinking about success, because NOT being in touch with your values and your dreams miiight be how you got to discontent and frustration in the first place. 

Knowing what is at stake for you in moving in the direction of your success will make it more likely that you complete the goals and tasks you end up putting on your to-do list. Nothing is worse than feeling pulled in a hundred different directions and not being sure why or how any of them matter. 

So – get clear on how you want to feeeeeeel. What will be different when you feel more successful than you do now? What will your life feel like when you don’t feel overwhelmed? When you know that your time is being spent wisely? When you know you are doing good work with good people for a good cause? How will you know you’ve gotten there? 

Connected to your own deeply felt sense of success, capture & write down what is going on that makes it so. 

And again, be honest even if you don’t immediately like what pops up for you. 

For me, I know one of the things that I need in order to feel successful is external recognition. Just that small bit of insight points me in several directions and invites me to get specific about what that means for me. What form does recognition come in? Which of those do I feel the desire for most, etc. 

Instead of external recognition, you might thrive on solo efforts, on working alone. Success might feel like hands-on work with your subject matter; or it may feel like a room of people following your lead – clarity on what success feels like is so so important. 

If figuring this out seems like a tall order because you’ve always been told what success is and haven’t developed the habit of deciding for yourself, asking a trusted friend what they think about you when you are at your happiest and most professionally fulfilled can give you some insights. There are assessments on workplace style, like DISC or Belbin team roles, that give insights as to your natural workplace behaviours and can be a launching point for discussions around what success feels like for you. Along with those assessments, my coaching clients do a narrative debrief with me that focuses on turning points and highlights in their careers – all of this information is data you can use to intentionally design the next stage of your career. 

Because once you know the feeling of success you want to work for, you can make plans and decisions that move you in the direction of that. 

What does your flavour of success mean for: 

  • Research – types, collaborations, sources, methods, venues?
  • Teaching – design, assessment, structure of mentoring
  • Service & leadership – what committees, organizations, and roles put you in closest proximity to the kind of success you want to feel? 

In each of these areas, you can think about being in front or behind the scenes, being solo or with a group; working towards a shared vision or being the one who sets the vision. 

One of the hardest things about figuring out your success recipe is the realization that you can’t, really, do it all. It is impossible to give 100% effort to every potential goal or project. Optimizing for your success means that you develop your awareness of how to distribute your effort, what to do when you’re feeling your most creative, and what to do when you can’t quite get up to performance speed. You’ll need to set limits on time vampires to open up space for the things that really move you towards your success feelings. 

The process of focusing, prioritising and managing your own expectations of yourself, so that you can reach your goals, turns out to be quite challenging. So, having a system to keep you on track, having accountability and regular check-ins, becomes doubly important. This is what happens inside of coaching  – you work on mastering yourself, so that you can be the most effective version of yourself. 

Get in Touch!

Need more insights or want to discuss your faculty frustrations? Reach out to me at or connect on LinkedIn and Instagram.

About Our Host:

Jennifer used to be a professor, until one day she moved to a different country and gave up her career. She had to figure out “what next?”

Jennifer has devoted the last ten years to learning all that she can about positive psychology, emotional intelligence, the growth mindset, and mindfulness, so that she can help others do the same, and build a rewarding career in the process.