Defining Your Own Success

by (new member) Hillary Rosander

#Training #Life
Published: January 9, 2016

A few years ago I read a great quote from an interview with Sheryl Sandberg which said, “we are so obsessed with ‘making it’ these days we’ve lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms.”  In my (unsuccessful) hunt to find this interview to share with the Junior League, I came across a similar article by Christine Organ, which I encourage everyone to take a moment to read.

A New Definition of Success” by Christine Organ (2013).

While reading this article, I found Ms. Organ touched on various areas of achieving success—health, family, and professional.  I have always referred to the individual areas of my life I wish to place importance as my “Pillars of Success.”  I certainly have succumbed to societal pressure to interpret the idea of “having it all” as being successful to the highest point on each of my pillars all at the same time, then sustaining them.  While I know this is an unattainable goal, it is still a goal for which I strive to achieve that often leaves me feeling unfulfilled and disappointed.

So why am I not defining my own success?

I recently graduated law school, many people would consider this a success (I do!).  However, I didn’t graduate in the top ten percent of my class, I didn’t make law review, and I didn’t go to a top tier school—am I still successful?  Some people would say no.  This is why it is so important to define our own success on our own terms.  I will be working in a very competitive industry; will I only consider myself successful if I become a Supreme Court Justice, a partner in my law firm, or bill six hundred dollars an hour?  Or is success measured by the fact that I will be working in a field I am passionate about while attempting to make a difference in the world, however small it may be?

I chose to demonstrate the idea of defining success with an example of my career, mostly because I’m single and have no children, but success is not measured solely on your profession despite constantly being asked “what do you do?” upon meeting someone new.  Ms. Organ touched on the idea of yelling at her kids or her husband and questions whether this makes her an unsuccessful mother or wife.  Is being a successful mother/wife emulating June Cleaver?  Are you a successful mother because you are involved in every aspect of your children’s lives?  Are you a successful mother if you have a career and buy store bought cookies for the school bake sale?  How do you define being a successful mother?

I would like to challenge you to think of who you consider to be successful and why.  What qualities or achievements do they have that you admire?  When you define their success is it because they “have it all” or because they have achieved a value on which you place importance?

Do we really need to bake homemade cookies, have a high powered CEO career, all while looking like Barbie?  I’m exhausted thinking about it.  What are your “Pillars of Success,” and how do they tie together to define your own success?