Success is an ever-present concept. We all want to feel successful and to be seen as successful by our peers. And there’s certainly no shortage of advice on how to get there.

Three Habits of Successful Leaders

Morning Routines of the Most Successful Women

Successful Parenting Tricks You Can Use

Secrets of Successful Marriages

Here’s my issue with this approach – it assumes we all think about success in the same way. That the same things will make all of us feel successful. That the same set of steps create success for everyone.

Write Your Own Success Story

It seems to me the reality is far different. As I talk to my friends, clients, and the other women I meet, I hear very different ideas of what it means to be a success. For some, it is being wholly invested in their families. Some want to fulfill a passion through their work, and seek to integrate their interests seamlessly into their lives. Still others want to find challenging work that rewards them well financially. Though they are all different, these concepts of success are each valid and meaningful.

The danger in following the popular notion that success means the same thing to everyone is that you may well end up chasing someone else’s dream. We see it all the time. The woman who thinks being a successful mom requires staying home with her children, and can’t bring herself to admit that she really would prefer to work. Or the high-paid professional who gives it all up mid-career to pursue a career in non-profit work.

What ultimately drives women to make a change in their lives? It’s fairly simple, actually.

Chasing someone else’s dream is draining. Tweet that!

You spin your wheels and never get the sense of satisfaction that you’re looking for. You feel like you don’t have the time to do the things that really matter to you. Do it for too long and you can end up feeling like a failure, despite all your apparent achievements. Ultimately, women throw up their hands and say to themselves, “There has to be a better way.”

Designing your own notion of success, however, is not for the faint of heart. It requires knowing yourself inside and out. What makes you feel energized and satisfied and what are your deepest values and desires? What would a life well-lived look like to you? Each of these questions must be answered from your own heart, free from the influence of your family, your friends, and the ubiquitous “they” who cloud our best judgment.

If you’ve already answered these questions for yourself, great! But, the journey is far from over. Even when you are on the right path for your own success, you aren’t insulated from fear, self-doubt and discouragement. It takes real commitment and confidence to keep muddling forward in the face of these challenges, to say nothing of all the critics and naysayers that will stand in your way. But the rewards are there for those who overcome.

Wherever you are in your life, it’s never too late to ask whose dream you are chasing. Tweet that!

And, if the answer is anyone’s other than your own, it’s never too late to correct your course in some meaningful way. After all, it’s your story to write.

What about you? Have you ever felt like you were chasing someone else’s dream for your life? If so, how did you course correct?