As we mature, it becomes increasingly important to create an ‘internal’ definition of success, one that doesn’t rely solely on the stars aligning for you in the external world. It’s helpful to ask yourself questions like: What does success mean to you? What are the elements of a happy (or satisfying, or meaningful, or complete) life for you?

As you move through your life and work span, it is a good idea to keep these questions in mind. That way, your plans and strategies will be not just consistent with your overall life aims, but will take you closer towards them. If you’re up for it, you can even add in the biggest question of all:

What is the purpose of my life?

Think about the elements of your satisfying life – work, family, community, friends, travel, finances, health, purpose, whatever it is for you. There’s no right or wrong here, but it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about the elements that you need to have in place, even if some of them haven’t happened yet.

It may help to imagine that you are at your own 80th birthday party. Someone close to you is making a speech – what will they talk about? (I tend to shy away from coaching cliché exercises, but this one does rather concentrate the mind…)

You can also think of this in connection with your values. There are no ‘correct’ or ‘better’ values for your happy life, that’s entirely up to you. For example, which of these would make you the most excited:

  • making $1 million in your business
  • receiving an Order of Australia award
  • becoming famous or a celebrity
  • gaining the respect of your peers or community
  • or?

One good way to work with these questions is by doing a mind map of the elements of your happy, successful life. If you haven’t mind mapped before, check it out by Googling – you guessed it – ‘mind map’. If you want to mind map your life, try this:

  • Put an image in the centre for the main idea – add a few words that will give your map a focus (‘My Happy Life’, ‘My Meaningful Life’, ‘My Successful Life’ or whatever).
  • Use a colour to draw a branch line out from the centre…add a word or two that relates to an aspect of your life (‘Family’ or ‘Financial Security’ or…).
  • Keep it to one idea per branch, and make sure each branch is connected to the central


  • Add sub branches to cover further detail about each element
  • Draw pictures or symbols to prompt your memory and bring your map alive

You can hang your map up somewhere that you’ll see it every day, or write about it, or just ask yourself the question from time to time, ‘What would it take for me to have a successful life?’.

As you work towards your plan, you can check your ideas against your map, to make sure that your plans will help you to flourish in every part of your life.

What does your satisfying life look like?

Joanna Maxwell


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