As I embark on a new year and reflect on this past year, I can’t help but think about all that I’ve accomplished. At the same time, I also consider the things I’ve yet to do. With everyone creating resolutions for their lives and making grandiose commitments, I feel very settled in my own definition of success, and how to achieve it based on my own life’s trajectory.

A Mantra For Success

We’ve all heard the saying, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Growing up in Hollywood, I’ve heard it most of my life. But it has occurred to me that it means different things to different people. For some, it’s a reference to pretending to be something you are not. To others, it’s about hope for what’s to come. I fall into an entirely different category. I’m not sure the phrase has to be about faking it at all. Maybe it’s more about overcoming imposter syndrome in order to “make it,” or reach your full potential. I share that from a very vulnerable but honest place deep within myself. Accepting people’s definition of success—or even my own definition—is an extraordinary struggle for me. Throughout my life, I knew I wasn’t given a dream that I wouldn’t be able to bring to fruition. I also knew and learned from experience that success wouldn’t come without obstacles. I simply had no idea how large the obstacles would appear.

Realization hit when I found myself alone with a six-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old, watching my life fall apart in front of my eyes. I felt empty, defeated and beaten down. The only thing I could do to get through the night was cry. It was only a lioness instinct within me that pushed me to figure out what to do to protect my two kids and build a world for them. Without words the world told me I was destined for a sad life as a single mom. My sons would suffer, according to the world’s projection. Imposter syndrome became very real for me. My circumstances didn’t align with the world’s definition of success. But I refused to be or bow to its definition of failure.

 A Blueprint For Preparation

I’ve always had a plan for what I thought my life would be. Getting divorced abruptly changed some significant parts of that dream. Life turned upside down very suddenly, and society didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet of encouragement and optimism for me. I was told I could no longer achieve much of what I wanted.

However, I thought about J. Lo, whose career blossomed despite her being a single mother. I remembered Oprah’s amazing life and thriving career that far superseded her past of abuse and sexual violence. Martha Stewart’s self-made journey came to mind and made me realize something about myself: if they could manifest their dreams, so could I! I didn’t have all the pieces figured out, but I knew how and where to start: at the finish line.

Beginning with the end in mind allowed me to reverse-engineer my goals, see where I wanted to be, and back up to figure out how to achieve them. I encourage everyone to do the same for their own goals. If your definition of success is to be like Lebron, study what he did to get where he is. Do you want star status like Beyonce? Use her career as a case study and find out what she did. Maybe you want to be a famous entrepreneur like Richard Branson. Research his story and glean nuggets from his experience. Then follow those footsteps, apply them to your life and work towards the end goal. Again, they did it, and you can, too, in your own way.

Leading With Purpose

Having a reverse-engineered plan was a great first step for me. Sustaining that fervor to push myself took much more than that, though. There has to be a personal investment in what you want to pursue, a passion, a cause. That will help answer the “why” that inevitably comes with the nagging imposter syndrome that rears its ugly head. I constantly found myself asking, “out of all the people who should be at this place in life, why am *I* here? How did I get here?” I experienced this so strongly when I first traveled to Kenya, Africa. The questions flooded my soul: who am I to be standing here in Kenya wanting to help these kids? What right do I have to stand here and say, ‘I’m going to help you,’ as if I have it all figured out?

Who was I?? I was the person who had a heart for giving as a little girl. The child who bought toys with her own money and traveled with her grandmother to present them to little kids in Mexico? That was me! The person who would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it, the one who took the time to learn about FGM and get involved with nonprofit philanthropy organizations. This is who Breegan was–and still is. The purpose and passion I have for giving and helping catapulted me past “imposter” thoughts and helped me realize I set myself up to be exactly where I was supposed to be. I reached the point that I worked and asked for because I led with my heart, opened myself up to my purpose and calling, and reverse-engineered my goal. I haven’t reached my mountaintop, but I know I’m on my way.

Create YOUR Definition of Success

I’m so proud of the steps I’ve taken toward my personal definition of success, and I’m happy with where I am. Yet, I know there’s still more to do, to show, and to give to the world. Am I “faking it?” I guess it depends on who you ask. I simply say I’ve decided what I want and who I ultimately want to be, and I’m working my heart out with passion and living it out every single day. You can do the same. Consider the suggested steps above, and let your heart and openness to impact the world be your guide. However that turns out, I believe, will be the ultimate and truest definition of success.

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