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Instead of Leaning In, lean INWARD

By Devaa Haley Mitchell, Founder of the Inspiring Women Summit

Did you happen to see the cover of Time magazine recently, with a picture of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook? The quote written below her photo was “Don’t hate her because she’s successful.”

But what exactly does it mean to be “successful?”

Success, as defined in Sheryl’s new book, Lean In, has a lot to do with being in the upper ranks of your industry with a high-paying job. To get to a place like this, she encourages women to “lean in.” At work, she encourages us to go for the promotion and all that it carries with it. This package usually includes long hours, high stress, little work-life balance, managing complicated employees. . . and the list goes on!

Other items in this success plan might include (though she does notspecifically state these things in her book): high status among your peers, a home with at least 5 bedrooms (preferably with a view), sexy car, super-star kids, and in-shape body with a great wardrobe. Essentially, it has elements of ye old “American Dream,” with or without the white picket fence with the addition of a to-die-for haircut.

Maybe that sounds like success to you, and maybe you want to “lean in” and go for it! And if that works for you, that’s great. I honestly applaud you. You are probably more of an “executive type,” and Sheryl is expressing a vision that resonates with that type.

(BTW, I have a whole system of feminine “types” that I’ll share in upcoming blogs. Understanding your feminine type can help you to crack the code on creating a life that is meaningful to you and others who share your type. But I digress…)

But Sheryl’s version of success doesn’t ring true for ME. Not at all! It feels about as interesting as a Sunday afternoon dedicated to that dingy pile of last month’s laundry. My excitement meter is at sub-zero.

So what’s wrong with me? Aren’t those things that we are SUPPOSED to want in our life?

After a bit of introspection (and a lot of raspberry leaf tea), I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing is wrong. I am just different type of woman. And I have a different vision of what success means to me.

Let me explain.

For me, instead of leaning in, it’s about leaning INWARD.

My model of success includes waking up most days to my body’s own rhythm—no shrill rip of an alarm for me! It includes having time to meander through nature several times each week and enjoying the shades of green as light passes through leaves.

It includes having time DAILY to feed my feminine-self and enjoy the sweet perfume and gentle lick of coconut oil on my naked skin after a shower. (Check out my blog at for more on this topic. I could write a whole book on this one).

Success to me includes sitting at my harmonium keyboard and pecking out a hot new song that lifts my pulse, instead of letting my creativity go underground (like I see happen with so many friends).

It means having a marriage where I still smile ear to ear upon seeing my sweetie walk through the front door after being apart just a few hours. It means having the strong tensile strength in my relationships to let a dear one know when I feel pissed with her or him—and working it through until love is restored.

And yes, it’s also about reaching more women with my Soulful Women work and my alchemical music, both of which I truly love. And though these pursuits require quite a lot of my time, they are actually a small piece of my overall vision for my life.

In this regard, I had an AHA moment when I was in a peer circle one day. Everyone talking about business plans. And something just wasn’t adding up for me. Then I realized that:

A great business plan does NOT equal a great life plan!

Instead, we have to create our life plan first! Then . . . and only then, we fit our business plan inside of our life plan.

I know this sounds so obvious. But I’ve witnessed many entrepreneurs, including myself, loose sight of this simple truth.

So I’m going to continue to lean inward. And anyone who is interested in a deep feminine, soul-nourishing, intimacy-building, tear-jerking, laughter-inducing community of women to birth the next version of yourself, are welcome to join me on this wild adventure.

It’s good to know I am not alone.

**Note: This is the sort of topic I’ll be exploring with an amazing roster of speakers, along with break-out sessions for participants, in this year’s Inspiring Women Summit. We’d love to have you join us! Go to

The Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive The Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 6

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