Defining your own version of success

Woman raising arms looking onto mountain tops

Lawyers are competitive creatures in more ways than one. Even if you’re not outwardly competitive, you still likely have a burning desire to be the best at whatever you do–whether it’s a presentation at a conference or drafting of a clause in a big deed.

When it comes to measuring success, we might find ourselves looking for external factors and opinions that shape what it is to be successful. But is that really the right place to be looking?

Respectfully, I disagree.

There are oodles of books about success and there are even more quotes about it. When I think about all that material, I wonder whether we take the literature too literally and forget that our success is ours to own and live. What ‘success’ looks like should also be developed from what success actually means to us. If we continue to look outside of ourselves for success, we’re likely to be continually unhappy and, moreover, unsuccessful. Success and happiness are permanently and critically interlinked.

Let’s take a closer look:

success (noun)

‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose’

aim (noun)

‘a purpose or intention; a desired outcome’

purpose (noun)

‘the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists’

What is interesting about the above is that not one of those definitions involves another person.


The words purposeintentiondesire and reason are all intrinsic words that only you can define.

In law school, for example, it’s common to have this concept of making partnership in a law firm as the epitome of success. However, that is not necessarily going to be the case for everyone and there may be a multitude of reasons why that may be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

The important fact remains that your purpose, intention, desire and reason are all yours to be developed, sought and achieved. They are what YOU want, not what someone tells you you are meant to want.

If you seek someone else’s idea of success as the yardstick to which you measure your own success and happiness in law, you will likely be left forever longingunhappy and confused. However, if you spend the time to think deeply about the purpose, intention, desire and reason you work in the law, you can begin to build your path to your own version of success.

Your success in law could be in running a well-oiled machine of law practice and having cultural harmony among your people. It could be enjoying good and ongoing quality work in your chosen practice area. It could be part-time practice and part-time side hustle of sewing colourful frocks and golf shirts. It could be lecturing and educating in law and writing about the law. It could be working in legal publishing and contributing to the history of legal writing. It could be working in policy and contributing to law reform.

More broadly, it could be working for yourself and doing kid drop off or pick up regularly or taking the kids to karate or gymnastics. It could be working half the year and travelling the other half. It could be working as in-house counsel for your partner’s business and enjoying lunch with them every day.


The options are limitless. They are as limited as the greatest reaches of your mind and your soul.

There are no limits to what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own thinking.

Brian Tracy

I implore you to consider what makes you happiest in your world and write them down. Write them with a good old fashion pen (okay, I’ll allow an apple pencil or stylus if I have to). When you’re finished, read them back over and over. Visualise them. Does it make you smile? Does it make your mind wander? Does it make you feel harmony or even joy?

If you’re one of the many people (like me) that got into the law to help people, have you considered whether you’re helping yourself as well? Are you helping yourself to enjoy what you do and how you do it? Are you helping to be the best version of yourself? Are you helping yourself to walk and own your own journey? Are you seeking out your own version of success?

If not, take a moment for yourself; you deserve it.

If you own this story you get to write the ending

Brene Brown
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