How I Stumbled from Success to the Good Life

Kathleen Byars | February 26, 2017

Six months ago, I wrote an article about Why I Traded My Lipstick and Pinstripe Suit to Live on an Island. It resonated with a lot of people. You may have read that article and subscribed to my newsletter because of it.

Thank you.

Like many people who have joined my community, you may feel like you are biding your time until you can create your own “island story.”

Maybe you dream of a NEW CAREER.

Maybe you want MORE BALANCE in your life.

Maybe you want to do something meaningful, and use your skills with a GREATER PURPOSE in mind.

What’s stopping you?

If you are comfortable doing so, leave a comment below and share so we can learn from each other.

I’ll tell you what stopped me from finding my ideal life for a long time. And what took me eight years of research, trial and error, and deep introspection to figure out.

The answer to the good life isn’t outside of you. It’s inside.

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Dr. Stephen Covey calls this Inside Out Living. In his research on success, Covey found the success literature of the past fifty years to be superficial. It is filled with social image techniques and quick-fix, external Band-Aids to address acute internal problems. The issue being that these “fixes” only work temporarily. Prior to this time period, success literature focused on man’s nature and intrinsic principles, rather than external forces.

I didn’t realize this gem of wisdom so I kept looking for answers in all the wrong places:

  • I tried being more productive. I thought if I could squeeze more productivity into each day, I would find more time to do the things I loved. I was wrong.
  • I tried changing jobs and considered a myriad of new career paths I might take. This didn’t work either.
  • I tried being nicer and more benevolent in hopes that my increased dedication to spirituality would throw better karma my way. My karma didn’t budge.
  • I tried telling myself that I had a fantastic life and I should be grateful for what I had. After all, so many others in the world have far more difficult lives. My first-world anxiety was silly and I needed to get over it. The shame I felt about my discontent just made things worse.
  • I tried being poor, but that just made me miss being rich.


I had carved out a successful life for myself and yet I still felt discontented. Every time I made gains in one area, I lost ground in another.

Finally, I threw my hands up in despair and decided to do the very opposite of what I was doing. And it worked.

Here are three major shifts I learned to make:

STOP ASKING PERMISSION: For a long time, I kept thinking that IF I had a flexible enough job and IF I had a certain kind of boss and IF the company culture was a certain way and IF I could go home every night at 5 PM that my life would be infinitely better.

The problem with this type of thinking is that we are waiting for someone or something else to give us “permission” to have the life we want. Rather than establish our boundaries, according to what we want in life, we hope that some external force will tell us that it is okay to work less and play more.

ALTER YOUR EGO: What I learned in the islands is that I valued myself for what I did. My ego – and sense of self-worth – was 100% wrapped up in being a high achiever. Being an inexperienced divemaster and boat captain in the islands meant I had thrust myself into a world of incompetence. My inability to cope with my struggle was almost paralytic.

Gaining esteem via performance is a culture-based problem. And letting go of that hidden script inside is terribly painful. Many of us don’t recognize that this pattern is even there; and that our value-based ego is largely dictating the choices we make that actually lead us astray from the good life

LEARN BALANCE: I was so busy looking for the silver bullet that would change my life, that I failed to see the obvious. A well-played life is a life that’s balanced. It’s a life of your own design where all of your needs are getting met in a delightfully fluid and natural way.

It’s not a destination; it’s the journey.

While someday, I hope that I can have a huge impact on the lives of others, right now I can visit my elderly neighbor across the street every Sunday afternoon. And if we want more time with our kiddos, we need to turn the cell phone off and leave the laptop at the office. Following #1 and #2 above, this decision becomes easy to make. Let someone else fill those big corporate shoes. There are higher priorities right now than being king of the corporate hill.


Once I stopped looking outside myself for a solution, true magic happened. My anxiety went away. My frenetic schedule calmed down. My sense of peace and well-being increased. I began looking forward to each day and I began seeing my future as a world of ever-changing possibilities.

And I started making choices that helped me focus on my children, my health, my own well-being, and the community around me along with a compelling, creative career. I was no longer Corporate Kate, I was just Kate: madly in love with my husband, devoted mom of three, outdoor-loving-adventurer, and loyal, honest friend. Woman building an extraordinary life and helping others do the same.

I hope my journey is helpful.

Have a great week and if this article resonates with you, please do me the favor and share!

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