How to stop striving and start thriving in your professional life

Mar 14, 2024

As a high-achiever, do you put ALL your success down to hard work?

When you’ve worked hard to get where you are and have hit EVERY big goal you’ve set for yourself, it’s natural to attribute hard work to your success.

After all, you have evidence it’s supported you so far!

While there’s no doubt work ethic and drive help you get results — the danger is when working hard becomes part of your identity…

So how do you remain ambitious without falling into a pattern of overwork and ‘unhealthy striving’?

Read on to learn how to recognise if your identity is ingrained in hard work — and the dark side, or consequences of this. Plus, I share the 3 game-changing secrets to help you stop striving and start thriving in your career — and life. 


I work with high-achievers who are very successful in their careers. From the outside, their lives look picture perfect. But on the inside, they’re often deeply unhappy.

Why? Because they’re making the mistake of approaching their careers from the ‘outside in’.

They’ve been conditioned to follow a traditional career path or settle for a ‘sensible’ job. One which gives them wealth, security or a steady pay cheque. In other words, they’re following someone else’s version of success.

By the time they contact me, they’re exhausted from trying to ‘do it all’ — or find a work/life balance which doesn’t exist.

They want help to figure out their career goals or HOW to ‘get to the next level’ professionally. But in reality, they’re unsure who they are or WHAT they really want. They may feel empty, unfulfilled or end up asking themselves — is this all there is?


If YOU feel this way, know you’re not alone. I did for years too. The good news is you can transform it, with a simple shift in approach.

Here’s the back story on HOW I figured it out…

Have you ever had a rock-bottom moment? Mine was the textbook ‘fall into a heap on the bathroom floor’ type of situation.

In the depths of burn-out, I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. But I also felt like something was missing…

As an ambitious, high-achiever this was out of character, so deep down, I knew I needed more than just a break. If you listened to my very first episode, you’ll know this was the first time I’d stopped to consider what I REALLY wanted. And I realised — I wasn’t fulfilled.

I also recognised the pattern of working myself into burnout. After a decade of repeating this cycle, I decided it was time to make significant changes. And this is when my journey of learning how to thrive, not strive starts.

Through my clients and own lived experience, the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is this: Healthy striving is about starting from the ‘inside out’.

By working towards the right goals and focusing your time on what truly matters to YOU. It’s the ONLY way you’ll be fulfilled and create sustainable career success. You can still be ambitious and work hard — as long as it’s aligned to what you truly want!

Here are my three game-changing secrets to help you thrive in your professional life:


I learnt figuring out the right career goals begins from the ‘inside out’. Because unless I knew myself and what I wanted, I was never going to thrive!

The way YOU can do this is, is by creating your vision for success. A vision gives you clarity on what you’re working towards — which is why it’s the first place I begin when working with my coaching clients.

Start by picturing the career and life you want to have in 3 years’ time. 3 years is a reasonable amount of time to make a change — but not too far into the future.

Write down your responses to these questions as if what you want has already happened. Feel free to pause this podcast and come back to the next question as soon as you’re ready.

  • What do you want to do and achieve?
  • How do you want to feel?
  • Who do you want to BE as a person?

Once you’re clear on your vision, you can easily identify the goals and action steps you need to take to make that vision a reality!

It’s important to note — success is different for every individual. For one of my clients, their vision for success is building a business which allows them to work overseas for half the year, write a book and fund interests outside work. For another, success is working part-time hours so they can spend time with their young daughter.

This process helps you pinpoint your priorities and what really matters to you. When I first did this exercise, I realised freedom was one of my highest values and the reason WHY I’d started my own business.

Knowing this about myself was a game-changer. It led me to overhaul my lifestyle, change my business model and pivot my career into more fulfilling work. To stop striving and start thriving.


I was one of those kids who could never settle on the ‘one thing’ they wanted to do when they grew up. Can you relate?

But one thing I always knew is I wanted to start my own business one day. My dad inspired me — he’d achieved amazing success as a business owner.

From a young age, he instilled this belief in me: Anything is possible — with persistence, self-belief and consistent action. It’s this one belief that’s helped me go after and achieve everything I’ve put my mind to.

From trying out many careers in pursuit of my multi-passions and working overseas in my early 20’s. To leaving a well-paid corporate job days before my 30th birthday to follow my lifelong dream of starting a business. Then, pivoting my career and closing a successful business to start a new one.

What holds you back

By the time my clients figure out what they want, fears, doubts and limiting beliefs hold them back. The fear of judgement and what other people will think if they step away from a successful role or career to try something new. The belief that what you want isn’t possible for you.

Through my experience of changing careers, growing two businesses and helping hundreds of individuals reach their career goals, the second secret I’ve learnt is this: Anything is possible with persistence, self-belief and inspired action.

Fear is a natural response any time you’re about to make a big change or push yourself outside your comfort zone. But it also holds you back from what going after what you want.

And this is where I want to remind you that fear is separate to you, not part of you. How YOU choose to respond to it is within your complete control. You can choose to stay stuck in the fear — or to step into the discomfort in pursuit of their dreams.

Working through fear begins with awareness, followed by inspired action. Because insight without action won’t get you results!

If I’m ever stuck, I ask myself. What’s the next best step I can take right now? Focus on small steps, one at a time.

This is such a fundamental belief that’s shaped who I am as a person and what I’ve been able to do and achieve. It’s also the reason my mission is to show others what’s possible.


This one is pretty personal and I want to share it as it’s had such a profound impact on how I design my career — and quite frankly, how I live my life.

So now you know how to get clear on what you’re working towards. You’re also aware of how to conquer fears and doubts so you can stay in action and reach your goals.

Both these factors are within your control. But what about the things outside your control?

Your brain loves certainty — which is why the past few years have felt so challenging.

Yet life is uncertain. You will experience unexpected setbacks on both a personal and professional level. But there IS a way to work through them.

Here’s a big challenge life threw at me, what I learnt from this experience — and how it can support YOU…

Back in 2018, I got a call out of the blue from my Dad. It could have been any typical mid-week working day. But that day is etched in my memory and that one phone call changed my life forever.

“I’ve just come from the doctor. He was in tears when he told me it’s the worst diagnosis possible. I’ve got pancreatic cancer.”

This news arrived a few months after I’d closed my recruitment company and had launched my new coaching business. I was also doing part-time post graduate study and travelling overseas regularly. So, a busy, stressful time in life, full of some big professional transitions.

Initially, the prognosis was promising, and Dad started months of gruelling treatment. But 6 months in, we learnt it was terminal. So, my now husband and I got engaged and frantically planned our wedding in 3 months — so my Dad would see us get married.

And this is what happens in life. It sometimes throws you unexpected curveballs.

Understandably, I became overwhelmed. From the emotional toll — and stress of balancing time with a sick parent, while running a business, studying and planning a wedding in such a short timeframe.

In the past, as a Type-A, workaholic, over-achiever I would have kept pushing through and ended up burnt out as I had many times in the past. Thankfully, because of the mindset work I’d done and past lessons learnt, I had the tools and resilience to get through a very challenging year.

Here are 3 simple practices which supported me during this period — and helped my clients and I navigate the uncertainty of the past couple of years. The best thing is, they’re all methods available to you too.

1. Slow down to speed up later

Despite my ambition, I’ve recognised the importance of slowing down — and sometimes stopping altogether. All so I can keep going and speed up later.

I’ve embraced the concept of ‘being’ versus ‘doing’. What does this mean? Being present in the moment, doing only what you can (especially when you’ve got a lot on your plate) and taking the time to process what is happening.

2. Practice self-compassion

Academic and self-compassion expert, Dr Kristin Neff says: ‘self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness and care that you’d show to a good friend.”

As a high-performer, it can be tough to slow down and you can easily feel guilty about the things you don’t get done. Especially in a world where overwork and hustle are celebrated.

My clients will often say: ‘I feel guilty for not spending enough time with my kids when I’m at work. Then struggle to switch off and be present with my family after hours’ 

But when you start to practice self-compassion, you will stop beating yourself up for what you don’t do!

3. Reframe your thoughts

This is a critical one to master when it comes to focusing on what’s within your control. Back in 2019, I realised…

The overwhelm I was experiencing was coming from me and the pressure I was putting on myself. You see, I couldn’t control the situation, only my response to it.

I could choose to be stressed and overwhelmed, or to come from a place of fun, ease and lightness — especially when it came to my wedding planning!

My focus could be on getting through my to-do list, or letting go of my need to control.

I could concentrate so much on future focused outcomes, that I missed out on precious moments and the joy of the present. After all, life’s about the journey, not the destination.

Final thoughts..

As I look back at this time — over 4 years later — I’m so grateful I was clear on what success looked like to me and built a business which gave me the freedom to spend time with my Dad in those final months.

And although there were professional setbacks as a result of taking time out, I knew it was possible to rebuild — because I’d done it before. Finally, focusing on what I could control — practices to build resilience and manage my mental health — allowed me to find space to grieve and bounce back much more quickly than I’d ever done in the past.

I’ve learnt what a gift life is. You only get one, so please don’t waste it!

Stop striving. Figure out your version of success, know anything is possible and start cultivating the resilience you need to overcome any setbacks along the way. And finally, start thriving.

So there you have it. The three biggest lessons from my career journey which have helped my clients and I start thriving in our professional lives. My wish is they support you too!

Ready to identify your priorities and thrive in your professional life?

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Stacey Back is a globally recognised and certified career coach, speaker and facilitator. She helps high-achievers at a career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms. Stacey works virtually with individuals and organisations based across the globe.