Redefining Success: The One Question Any Woman Should Ask


Have you ever stopped mid-task to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing – and what success really means to you? For all the roles you have – professional, mother, wife, daughter – a part of your own self-care is how you define or redefine success for YOU, instead of racing to keep up with a textbook definition of success that’s been handed down by the powers that be.

As a female surgeon, I think about this a lot! I recently had the opportunity to speak with several female medical colleagues about this at a dinner event. And, if you think women aren’t making great strides, I wish you could’ve been a fly on the wall that evening.

I consider myself pretty enlightened about how far women have come – a true believer of our great strengths and what we bring to the world. And I believe the men who have supported us along the way have also made great strides.

But here’s what I heard that night:

 “… and I still had to get my husband to co-sign my credit card application and my business loan.

 “Despite having a 3.8 out of a 4.0 GPA in engineering at a prominent school, I was asked ‘What makes you think you could be a doctor?’”

The doctor I interviewed with said, “I don’t know why anyone would hire you. It’s much too demanding work for a woman.

Wow. Seriously?

Let me clarify here, in case you’re wondering. These women are NOT our grandmothers’ age. They are mid-forties and fifties multi-tasking, modern-day, strong, intelligent practicing female physicians.

Women who have been full-time doctors while raising families and mentoring other women in medicine.

These are women who have had successful lives, in and outside of medicine.

Arianna Huffington, in her commencement speech to Smith College, asked us to redefine success.

She challenged the idea that success was equal to money and power. And instead fostered the idea of well-being, wisdom, wonder and a willingness to give back as the true measure of a successful life.

Ultimately, we all have to make our own, personal definition of success. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

So how do we know? How do we know we’re successful by our own standards, and how do we redefine success for ourselves?

There’s ONE question any woman should ask to redefine success:

That question is: what is your WHY?

To sit down and write down why you decided to start doing what you do in the first place, is the key to finding your way again. Why did you choose to sacrifice time, money, and energy on that dream?  Whether you are in medicine or not, the real way to look at success is if you are following your why, your passion.

Start with your WHY. In your day job. And in your everyday job. Like being a parent, or a spouse, or a friend.

As a doctor, after a lot of soul searching I discovered a big part of my why and divulged it in an article that went viral online,“The Secret Lives of Doctors”. While it was nuts and bolts information to many of us in medicine, the people outside the doctor world went wild with this knowledge, with almost 100,000 views. Those in medicine simply shrugged and said, “Yep. That’s what I think, too.”  Tweet: At the end of day, we are the only ones who can truly judge our own success.

So, what’s YOUR secret life? All those thoughts swimming around your head in your day-to-day life, that no one else really knows?

I’d like to ask each of you, as you race down that success ramp, to stop for a moment and think about where you’re really going. And WHY!

In the comments below, share with me what you do and just one reason why you do it. And I wish for you every success.




CATEGORIES: Blog, Connection on October 13, 2015 by Starla Fitch, M.D.

Like this article? Get free updates!

2 thoughts on “Redefining Success: The One Question Any Woman Should Ask

  1. John Jarstad, M.D.

    Medicine is my day job which allows me to pursue so many other wonderful experiences and to try to be a blessing to my family and extended family. My grandfather who grew up poor once said: “if just one member of the family can “make it big” he or she can be a real blessing in the lives of others.” Medicine has provided me the means to purchase guitars and a harp and provide the lessons to play them and travel.

    1. Starla Fitch, M.D. Post author

      Love this, John! My husband and I take electric guitar lessons and not only has medicine brought me much joy in the practice and patients — I met my guitar teacher through one of my physician partners (his son was taking lessons from our teacher). The right teacher makes all the difference! I know, since you were my teacher, John, in residency! Hugs! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *