Successful Women Think Differently, by Valorie Burton

Buy the book here!


Happiness comes before success. Adopt mindsets and practices that increase your true happiness, and success will follow.

Although this book is aimed at women, lessons shared can apply to anyone. The book focuses on 9 habits and this book summary is structured differently, highlighting the essential ideas!


  • Happiness creates success.
  • An optimistic mindset develops the traits needed for success e.g. bouncebackability.
  • Successful people take their happiness seriously.
  • Successful people seek fulfilment over success.
  • Successful people are satisficers.
  • Successful people send their true selves rather than their fear based, approval seeking facade into the world.
  • Successful people refuse to downsize their dreams, knowing that when you stop hoping you start settling.
  • Successful people say no to good opportunities in favour of purposeful ones.


  • Success is living your life’s purpose and embracing joy and resilience and as you do it.


  • What makes one person succeed while another falls short of similar goals? Essentially – Successful people THINK differently.
  • Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
  • Successful people recognise it’s their thinking style – it’s the mindsets they adopt FIRST – that inspire their success. The right mindset leads to the right decisions, actions, goals and eventually success.
  • They adopt the following mindsets for success, with the Happiness Mindset being at the heart of these:
Happiness Mindset Impact MindsetInspiration Mindset
Learning MindsetPossibility MindsetResourceful Mindset
Challenge MindsetSolution MindsetDecisive Mindset
Courage MindsetAuthenticity MindsetDiscipline Mindset
Relationship MindsetStrength MindsetResilience Mindset
Preparation Mindset360° Mindset


  • Research suggests that happiness causes more productivity and higher income. That happiness leads to success, not the other way around. Most people mistakenly think if they had X (mostly something external) they would then finally be happy.
  • Research shows that positive emotion associated with happiness equips people to handle adversity better, bounce back from setbacks, see the bigger picture, and live longer. On average, the effects of unhappiness cut life expectancy by 6 years.
  • Successful people take their happiness seriously – they don’t dwell on the negative and fill life with the positive – positive thoughts, words, people and outlook. They see fun and joy as an essential element of success.
  • Optimists make better leaders, succeed at higher levels and live longer. They explain their failures and successes differently. An optimistic outlook can be learned.
  • Pessimists tend to believe negative events impact their lives forever and are all their fault – they give up more easily. Negative emotion narrows your scope of thinking.
  • True happiness v The Hedonic Treadmill – the latter is the continual chasing of short-term thrills or the next big thing (the bigger house, car, income etc) and the temporary thrill of acquiring them. The thrill of victory, no matter how great, eventually wears off. True happiness is derived from an internal mindset, outlook, activities and relationships, focusing on longer term contentment and joy, and sustained despite external circumstances.
  • Successful people value fulfilment over success. Success is often defined by the external (e.g. money, success, titles, possessions). Fulfilment instead is about living with purpose (being of service to others) using your strengths and tapping into your passions.
  • Focus on the journey more than the end goal – are you being your best in each and every moment? Are you feeling fulfilled moment to moment rather than just at the endpoint? Are you joyful through your journey?
  • Is your success making you a better person? E.g. when you face obstacles are you getting bitter of better?
  • Be content whilst also aiming higher. There is no guilt in wanting more if you are in service to others – you getting more means others get more.
  • Sonja Lyubomirsky: Happiness is 50% your temperament and outside your control (your happiness setpoint, determined genetically – some people naturally have a more positive disposition than others), 40% what you do daily (intentional activity), and 10% circumstances. That means there is a lot more of happiness that can be controlled than most people think.
  • Changing your circumstances e.g. getting a new car only accounts for 10% of happiness and explains why the newness becomes the norm and you revert back to your happiness set point. Too often we wait for a change in circumstances to feel happy, however once the newness of “our new toy” wears off we discover our lack of happiness is a deeper issue. You can instead choose to intentionally engage in activities daily (the 40%) that impact your happiness e.g. exercise, social interaction, enjoyable tasks you enjoy, acknowledging your blessings. Focus on what brings you joy.
  • Further to this, if you change your circumstances (only 10%) think about how it will allow you to act differently – how it will allow you to undertake “happiness generating” intentional activity that makes up 40% of your happiness quotient. E.g. getting a new car – is this to impress and keep up with the Joneses, or will the additional seating allow you to bring your gran on trips with the rest of the family, or transport your neighbour’s children to school (i.e. serving and having positive impact). Changing your boss to a more supportive one, or changing your career may mean on a daily basis you get to do tasks that derive greater happiness to you, as they are aligned with your true purpose. Choose a career that gives you daily activity you look forward to.
  • Money and happiness: Living below your means increases happiness, not how much you make but whether you can pay your bills. Research shows that people are happier spending money on others (and thus impacting others) than on themselves.
  • Look for opportunities to use your money to boost positive emotion (in the long term rather than for temporary thrills).
  • Successful people take the time to measure their success by their own standards, not that of society. Take time to identify your personal definition of happiness.

IMPACT MINDSET – Successful people ask “What is my impact?” and “Who am I serving?”

  • They have a sense of vision and purpose (making a difference in the lives of others). They say no to good opportunities in favour of purposeful ones.
  • “How is someone’s life made better because your path crossed theirs?
  • They are givers, believing in and developing the potential of others on their success journey.
  • Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.

INSPIRATION MINDSET – Successful people use inspiration to set goals 

  • Happy, successful people set inspired goals, knowing that inspired goals and the achievement of them give you life. A goal is inspired if you feel led by it rather than it feeling like a burden. Inspired goals tap into your strengths and fulfil your purpose. Authentic goals are derived from our deepest needs and desires.
  • They choose goals that stretch them beyond their comfort zones.
  • They choose goals that intrigue them – goals that are meaningful.
  • They use the power of why to motivate and inspire them. Why do you want to achieve the goal? What will it give you?
  • They focus on a single goal, and put their all into them – understanding that it takes, passion, laser focus and energy to reach a goal and therefore choose the one that matters most.

LEARNING MINDSET – Successful people do not take failure personally

  • Successful people see failing as learning.
  • In the face of failure or disappointment, they understand that it is your thinking style that gets you through. Instead of blaming seemingly permanent character flaws, they adopt a mindset that moves them forward – believing that failing this time does not mean failing next time.
  • Successful people explain their failures differently. Instead of blaming themselves e.g. “I always mess up…it’s me…it’s going to last” they focus on external factors – “It was just circumstances – nobody spends money in a bad economy”.
  • Akin to a growth mindset, successful people hold the essential belief that any person can change, believing that their natural talents are simply a starting point, and that you can grow substantially through learning and experience.
  • Due to their acceptance of, and ability to learn from failure, they are successful through their willingness to take risks.

POSSIBILITY MINDSET – Successful people believe their dreams are possible

  • Successful people believe that through right thoughts, right actions, right relationships – your dreams are possible.
  • They do not allow belief in their potential to be limited by grades or performance reviews. They decide to expect more.  They refuse to downsize their dreams, knowing that when you stop hoping you start settling.

RESOURCEFUL MINDSET – Successful people are resourceful

  • Successful people are resourceful knowing that creativity is borne from limitation.
  • They ask, “How can I start now despite (limited) resources? They ask, “How can I do less work and receive a higher pay-out?”
  • They ask for and seek opportunities, rather than waiting for them to fall into their lap.

CHALLENGE MINDSET – Successful people welcome and are excited by challenge

  • They choose a mindset that sees problems and challenges as opportunities for growth.

SOLUTION MINDSET – Successful people focus on solutions

  • They choose to focus on solutions over problems, knowing that where your focus goes, your energy flows.

RESILIENCE MINDSET – Successful people believe in their ability to overcome obstacles

  • They expect and plan for challenges to arise on setting out to achieve a goal, realising that sometimes you stumble, sometimes you take 3 steps forward and 2 back, but they never give up.
  • They understand the process is not linear but more of a zig-zag, and that there is more to learn from the failings along the way, and bounce-back from these failures and adversity.
  • When NASA chooses astronauts, they seek people who have more than a track record of success, but who have had significant failures and bounced back.
  • Talented people push back – they don’t accept the status quo, but see room for improvement.

DECISIVE MINDSET – Successful people are decisive satisficers

  • They do not wait for perfect conditions. Once a decision is made they stick with it, this decisiveness frees their energy to focus forward. Decisiveness and follow through conserves energy and creates stability, as opposed to second guessing themselves. Yes, they may have regrets, but they choose to learn from them moving forward.
  • Seizing on the knowledge that something shifts inside of them after making a decision to go for it, and that a decision indicates a belief that it is possible, they follow a decision with action.
  • They understand that too much choice can be bad, leading to analysis paralysis and mean you lose sight of which decisions really matter. They understand their priorities and values and understand that some decisions are far weightier than others and therefore deserve more time and attention.
  • Successful people make conscious decisions. They don’t entertain every option that comes their way. Their values help determine which options although looking good on the surface may not be right for them.
  • Satisficers v Maximisers (Barry Schwarz)Successful people are satisficers. They don’t strive for every choice or task to be perfect. They focus on progress not perfection. Having a clear sense of purpose in everything they do makes it easier to know which to prioritise. Maximisers are those whose aim is for the best conceivable option in every life decision e.g. for a new job as well as for their choice of what to eat in a restaurant. This perfectionist habit robs them of energy, satisfaction and effectiveness. Instead, satisficers set minimum standards that will satisfy them when met, allowing them to shift focus onto other decisions. E.g. when buying a sofa, they set minimum standard criteria (under $X dollars, X length, X colour). Once they find a sofa that matches these criteria, they stop looking. There may indeed be a better option out there, but they choose to spend their energy and time on other important matters. They aim for progress and contentment over perfection.
  • Successful people automate choices for lesser priorities freeing up time, focus and energy for other matters e.g. a fortnightly menu, fortnightly set of work outfits.
  • They own all of their decisions both good and bad. Owning good decisions builds confidence in your ability to make more of them. Owning bad decisions helps you uncover unhealthy patterns, ones that may be sabotaging your success, ones that go against your true desires, and aids you to make a conscious choice to change them.
  • Exercise: What are the 5 best decisions you have ever made in your life and why? What are the lessons gleaned from those choices? Similarly, what are the 5 worst decisions you have made and what are the lessons?

STRENGTH MINDSET – Successful people build on strengths rather than weaknesses

  • They tap into and focus on building and deriving full value from their innate strengths instead of their weaknesses, instead of fixing what’s wrong with them.
  • Instead they acknowledge their weak points (they do not ignore them) and reach out to others to gap fill. This is strength-based personal improvement. Rather than focusing on everything that is wrong in a situation, they pinpoint the steps that would lead to success.
  • “The ageless essence of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant” (Peter Drucker)
  • Trying to accomplish goals outside of your purpose and talent drains your energy. Using your strengths, you get results faster and with seemingly less effort. You can do more with less (input). You need to raise your own awareness of your strengths and the conditions under which they flourish. Your strengths are traits you frequently use, are innate to you, you are energised by them and you elevate others when they experience you using them.
  • It’s important to get feedback as we are often blind to our own strengths as they come so naturally. Who are your champions? Who are the people who can see your strengths clearly and reflect them back to you?
  • You don’t have to be strong at everything. Leverage the strengths of others as well as your own.

RELATIONSHIP MINDSET – Successful people nurture relationships that strengthen them.

  • Successful people authentically collaborate, communicate and celebrate each other. They choose relationships intentionally and nurture them consistently.
  • Through a collaborative outlook they realise their relationship with their staff is symbiotic – as well as staff being employed to make their dream a reality, they are also there to help them realise their own dreams.
  • Through communication they share their challenges, realise they are not alone and thus tap into potential solutions they were not aware of alone.
  • They realise that success rarely happens in isolation. Our sense of purpose is filled in relationship with others and our impact on others.
  • They realise (sustained) success is intentional – it doesn’t happen by accident – there are conditions, structures, and actions (e.g. mentors, accountability groups) – combining to form a system that empowers their success and resilience.
  • Successful people have influence:
    • 1) They know what others want. By helping them to get it they are more likely to get help in return to reach their own goals.
    • 2) They choose battles wisely, refusing to waste energy creating enemies and thus diminishing their influence.
    • 3) They focus on solutions over problems, presenting potential solutions to their boss when a problem arises, and thereby presenting themselves as someone who makes a boss’s job easier.
    • 4) They tap into unofficial networks, knowing that influence isn’t just about who has the big title but who people listen to.
    • 5) They build trust by starting small. By getting a decision maker to say yes to small things they make it easier for them to say yes again, building trust and expanding their level of influence along the way.
    • 6) They are strategic – when they want to ask for something they analyse the situation first– e.g. asking if they need to get some others on board first – by planning what they have to do or say to get the other person to feel positive about saying yes.

COURAGE MINDSET – Successful people choose courage over fear

  • Fear can lead you to shrink from your authentic desires, to rationalise yourself out of a great idea, to pretend you don’t really want something.
  • Successful people feel fear but learn to move forward in spite of these fears.

AUTHENTICITY MINDSET – Successful people choose to be their true selves

  • Successful people choose to be authentic – when you fear acceptance you send your “representative” into the world, the one you believe will be approved.
  • Instead, choose to be the best you possible – no more, no less.

DISCIPLINE MINDSET – Successful people know that at the highest levels, discipline trumps talent

  • They practice and master the skill of discipline, knowing that discipline favours success more than natural talent to be leader in their field.
  • They choose consistency – daily action in their vision’s direction.
  • They choose delayed gratification – e.g. doing homework, learning a challenging new skill, persevering through difficult circumstances – exercising patience before seeing the fruits of their labour.

PREPARATION MINDSET – Successful people are prepared

  • They choose to put in the practice necessary and choose to be prepared for when opportunity knocks.

360° MINDSET– Successful people use the power of reflection to develop themselves

  • They choose honest feedback from trusted others to grow. They recognise they have blind-spots and require others to help them see all of themselves (from a 360° view) clearly.
  • They tap into the power of the pen – writing down your goals takes you much further than sitting and thinking about them.
  • They know the power of the written word to act as a witness and observer. Most people who are driven to success have had some major pain at some point in their lives and have still pushed through. They use writing as a tool and powerful strategy to validate their experiences and process events and emotions – helping them to see themselves more objectively, learning from their experiences and developing resilience.
  • Getting things out of your head releases space for more thoughts. It helps you process issues and get unstuck. The words you write become insights, self-coaching, therapy, healing, and possibility.
  • Exercise – To inspire positive emotion and a healthy mindset write about your best possible future self in the present tense.
  • Successful people use writing as a success tool, empowering them to reflect on themselves and thus help them with the challenges and opportunities life presents.
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