Motivating Successful Women: Wealth, Influence or Prestige?

While recently talking to a number of executive level women, these ladies have the elements of success, but felt that there was something more to be done with their lives. After achieving high levels of success and getting paid a great salary along with it, there is still a longing for more…but the question is, more what?

There is a hidden reason that’s becoming highlighted through open and honest conversations; and while surveys are great, they are typically based on surface emotions, and not the true feelings of some women which can be buried in the abyss and guarded by sharks. 🙂

In 2010, Princeton University released a study, “High Income Improves Evaluation of Life, but Not Emotional Well-Being.” It said that emotional well-being rose along with income up to $75,000, but there was no further progress of emotional well-being above that income level.

My friends and I laugh all the time about how we were happier at $45k than we were/are at $100k+. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating against achieving high levels of income, but it’s about realizing what’s given up along the way from $45k – $100k. Acknowledging that we lost “something” as we gained more income, credibility, job titles and reputations in our chosen profession, is the key to being happy with more money. What were we doing at $45k that we aren’t doing at $100k?

At $45k, we were fresh out of college and super proud of the accomplishment of getting our first job. We were happy with moving into our very own apartment, typically furnished with hand-me down furniture or pieces from discount stores. We were happy with our used cars.

The freedom and excitement of accomplishments were celebrated often and we gathered regularly with friends for dinner, movies and birthday parties; often seeing each other several days a week outside of work or at least twice a month for dinner at Red Lobster or Olive Garden.

We had responsibility, but it wasn’t a ton because we were young and the expectations and penalties for mistakes weren’t as crushing.

Over time, as we ascended up the ladder of achievement, work became a priority and accomplishments became a normal part of life; so they were no longer celebrated. With additional income, our apartments turned into houses with mortgages and used cars were replaced with new ones. Stress and anxiety from working longer hours accompanied the higher income.

Money that was once considered disposable income for gatherings with friends, is now being used for nicer homes, cars, furniture and other material possessions. Red Lobster is now McCormick and Schmicks and Oceanaire (who eats frozen seafood these days?). People got married and had kids and the once close relationships with others are not so close anymore. The attention has to be in the home and at work.

Friends who had kids and became stay at home moms developed depression because their professional identity was replaced with picking up dirty socks and becoming a pseudo cab driver to kid’s activities.

Now here we are in these big houses, driving these cars and have several post graduate degrees, but we are also stressed out and over-worked in high level positions. We have anxiety and strained relationships with family and friends because Father-Time waits for no one, and the weekly/monthly gatherings have turned into once every few years, if ever.

For women who try to balance work, stress, family, spouses, care-giver or whatever role they are called to do, there are questions raised on whether or not it’s worth it. Achieving executive level positions and breaking barriers is exciting for competitive women, and is a lofty goal to achieve. However, what happens when we get there and look at all that was lost along the way?

What happens to the women who are one step from achieving an executive position, but sees the stress, anxiety and strain of other women in those positions? A young lady ascending the success ladder talked about how her bosses have high divorce rates, and suffer from depression, so she’s choosing to stay in a lower position because the future is brighter there, rather than stepping into the shoes of her executive team.

Why do I go to this length to get my message out to the audience that needs it the most? It’s because while we ascend to high positions, no one is highlighting the trade-off. There is an exchange taking place. More money, less time; more time, less money; bigger house, less disposable income; more disposable income, smaller house or apartment.

What’s the point of leaving a $600k house in the morning and driving to your reserved parking space at work in a Lexus if you drive around in the parking lot for 5 minutes, and then kick rocks on the way in the door? What’s the point of getting to the corner office with a view, if you are going to stare out of the window and regularly talk yourself out of jumping out of it?

“Happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well-being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events.”
– Tal Ben Shahar, “Happier” 

What made you happier 10 years ago? Can you re-create it? Has your definition of success changed? After achieving high levels of success, what more do you want?

I’m simply asking these questions to spark an inner dialogue and to get you to think about what you really want in life. Only you know and it’s unique and individualized to your life. Surveys can’t tell you who you are, only you and God can do that.

I’ve recently talked to a number of people who talk badly about their jobs, bosses and co-workers. There’s a fire that burns within them when they passionately express ALL the things that are wrong. Their passion usually illuminates the flame in other people and then you have a group of people complaining about everything that’s wrong with the world. They say that if someone would just fix the problems, their jobs would be so much better. If someone would address the countless challenges, they wouldn’t be depressed, stressed or have high levels of anxiety. Surprisingly, they also have a list of solutions to the problems they’re complaining about.

I’m very direct in my questions and when asked why they don’t act on or propose their recommended solutions to the decision makers, their fire quickly diminishes, coldness enters and I get a “deer in the headlights” look. After a minute or so, an avalanche of excuses start to emerge from their pores and spill all over the floor. Passion soon turns into exhaustion.

“Start going the extra mile and opportunity will follow you. Leaders who need a job done think first of people they know will do it well. If other people respect you for the quantity and quality of your work, you will find yourself advancing past others who regard their jobs as drudgery. For all the extra service that you’ve rendered, you’ll find yourself more than amply compensated by opportunities others never grasp.” – Napoleon Hill 

 It’s so interesting that people get excited when they complain about everything that’s wrong in their lives, but get exhausted and make excuses when it comes to creating a solution. It takes work to make changes and create new habits, but it’s seems easier to complain than make changes. Truthfully, it’s easier to make changes than to complain about the same thing year after year. If you are blaming everyone else for your problems, depression, stress and anxiety, and NO ONE seems to care that you have these conditions, it’s time to look in the mirror and decide to save yourself.

At one office early in my career, mid-level personnel rotated jobs every year to diversify our portfolio. When rotation time came, senior leadership decided to keep me in the initial position because I was very good at it and made significant improvements. This was great for them, but what about me and the implications to my career?? I had every right to complain and rage against it, but instead, I asked to be given an official title and the flexibility to change the job description; my requests were granted. I also volunteered for other roles to stay in the presence of senior leaders.

When rotation time came again, they kept me in the job for the third year. This was unheard of and completely unfair!! With the success of the training programs developed, the new standards of conduct and higher levels of professionalism displayed by the people who worked for me, senior leadership wanted the trend to continue. I felt my hard work was having the opposite effect and cost me career diversity. Again, instead of beating my fists, I asked to be given 4 newly arriving personnel and the request was approved. Over that 3 year period, I ended up with 75% more officers (mid-level supervisors) working for me, than any other person at my level.

Instead of feeling victimized by the decisions of others, I chose to create new and unconventional ways to diversify my job portfolio. The valuable lessons learned from that experience taught me that organizations are open to efficiencies and changes if they:
1. Make sense
2. Greatly benefit the bottom line, and
3. Doesn’t involve extra money or personnel to make it happen

In the next position, I applied the same principles and ended up developing a reputation with the leaders in my office and others within the worldwide organization. I also attracted the attention of leaders from local, national and international companies and was regularly requested to speak at their events to share my knowledge and expertise. After the events, I had numerous job offers that were kindly declined.

The previous paragraph is not intended to impress you, but to impress upon you that thinking outside of the box, and working hard to solve long-standing problems opens up an expansive array of possibilities. Senior leaders have their reasons for making decisions and any time you work for someone else, you will be subjected to their reasons; whether they share them with you or not. Taking ownership for how you respond is up to you. Getting down on yourself, becoming depressed or stressed out, or having anxiety because you feel left out is not the right approach, there is a better way.

If you don’t like the circumstances of your job, are you willing to work for your company/organization and go the extra mile to make it better at no cost? Doing more work than your counterparts and making significant impacts in your current position may give you an opportunity to get hired at a higher income level with other companies. Leaders love other successful leaders and are always on the lookout for top talent. Are you doing what’s necessary to be considered top talent?

When leaders work to make their companies better, they aren’t looking for praise, accolades, raises, awards, etc. They are doing the work to solve the problems that people have been complaining about for years. By solving the problems, it’s likely they receive the praise, accolades, raises, etc., but the price has to be paid up front.

“If life hands you a lemon, don’t complain, but instead make lemonade to sell to those who are thirsty from complaining.”
– Napoleon Hill

What have been your experiences with leadership and going the extra mile? Do you have people in your office that complain all the time?

Christy Rutherford, an Executive Leadership Strategist, trains leaders on long-standing leadership principles to assist them with realizing their full potential and increase productivity. She also coaches Type A leaders who are suffering from burnout, which impacts their performance at work and home.

Download your free workbook: “Success Roadmap – 7 Powerful Ways To Get Clear On The Results You Desire” at 

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