Change Your Miserable Lawyer Life—With Facebook. Really.

I firmly believe that Facebook can change an unhappy lawyer’s life. Just not in the way that other people think it does. I mean, yes, connection is wonderful. Entertainment certainly eases the crush of boredom and tedium that is often law practice. And yes, you might even get some clients, start a romance or make some enemies or whatever.

Change your life---find the funny in your annoyances, and post it!

Change your life—find the funny in your annoyances, and post it!

My favorite use for Facebook, though, is to make life’s little annoyances and tragedies a little bit funny. In doing that, I’ve found that I obsess much less over the annoyances, hurts and heartaches of life, get over them faster, and—maybe the biggest bonus—get to take my creativity out for a spin.

Here’s a recent example, just so you can see how my demented (but charming) mind works. I noticed one morning that the clean silverware in the dishwasher had been put into the drawer. I knew I hadn’t done it. So I said to my husband, who was slaving over his laptop doing all manner of indecipherable IT things, “Thank you so much for unloading the dishwasher! I really appreciate it!” To which he responded, “You’re welcome.”

After I’ve finished the school run and get back to my empty house, I thought I should put the morning dishes into the dishwasher before getting to work. I opened up the dishwasher and there sat a bunch of dishes. CLEAN dishes. For a few more moments than I care to admit, I was pretty ticked off about this. It hit a lot of those marital sore spots about communication, paying attention, and a laundry list of other things that I won’t bore you with.

I desperately wanted to post something really bitchy, snarky and my-husband-sucks on Facebook about it. Along the lines of “I’m so sick of this shit!”

But that would violate my personal rules about not whining, complaining, or generally airing my dirty laundry on Facebook. So I had to figure out a funny way to relate my little tale of ire and woe. After working it over in my head for several minutes, I came up with:

I’m not sure what label to put on it, but I clearly don’t live in the world where “I emptied the dishwasher” means “I had our son put away the silverware and left everything else in the dishwasher.” That is, however, the world my husband lives in!

I admit I may not have completely succeeded on avoiding snark and a whiff of complaining, but compared to how I initially felt about it, this was a vast improvement.

And that’s pretty much the point: By focusing on how to view the whole thing as funny, rather than the source of anger and frustration, I was able to do an important thing, psychologically speaking: I reframed the situation. I (mostly) got over being angry. I made the best of something that wasn’t ideal. And that, according to noted psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, is a key to happiness in life.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who helps unhappy attorneys put some happy into their lives. If you’d like to do that, schedule a discounted, sample coaching session with Jennifer. Contact her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com and get going into a happier life!

Reframing Your Life and Legal Career

With the advent of digital photography, we are all now experts at framing and cropping pictures. Focusing in on a detail, tightening the focus to get rid of an unsightly background, hell, even changing up some colors—we all now get how with images, the difference between ugly and great can be a simply matter of how you frame it.

It’s the same with life and career. Really.

Star Wars Legos clones

Sure, it’s an OK picture here . . .

Star Wars Legos clones

but you can really appreciate the awesome creativity if you focus on what’s important and leave all the distraction out.

I’ll share something that happened to me not long ago, to show how the way you mentally frame the crap that comes along in life makes a big difference in the quality of your life. And career.

Vulnerability and Uncertainty—the Hardest Part

I’m at “that age.” In other words, that amorphous period of life when your doctor starts prefacing things with, “Well, at your age . . . “ and is usually followed with a suggestion of a test or medication. And of course, being a woman close to “that age,” I’ve been getting mammograms for several years. This year, I got a call instead of a letter. They saw something that might or might not be a change since last year.

I did OK at first. All that work over the years of learning Martin Seligman-inspired optimism did pay off. I breathed. I did not get on the Internet and Continue reading

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Pessimism for Lawyers

Pessimism isn’t totally bad. As I mentioned before, the ability to see the downside risk in every situation has value, particularly for lawyers. You can prepare for bad outcomes before they happen, and mitigate the ones you can’t prevent. Companies pay a lot of money for that. Lives can depend on it.

ghostly woman

Pessimism can turn your dreams to ghosts. That's no way to live.

Pessimists also have a much more objective view of reality than optimists, according to Dr. Martin Seligman in his 1990 book Learned Optimism.

Seligman posits that most depressed people are also, not coincidentally, pessimists. Just because you’re a pessimist does not necessarily mean you are depressed, but the evidence is clear that pessimists are far more likely

Continue reading

How Pessimistic Attorneys Are Like Whining Dogs

Pessimists are better at lawyering than optimists, Dr. Martin Seligman tells us in his 2004 book Authentic Happiness. That doesn’t surprise me, because the essence of lawyering is looking for the downside and trying to protect against it. The better you are at imagining those downsides, the better you are at your job.

Muzzled dog

Don't let pessimism muzzle your life and career dreams.

But there is a high cost of pessimism on life happiness and functionality, as Seligman discusses at length in his earlier work, Learned Optimism. Pessimists are more prone to depression (hello, lawyers have a 3 times higher rate of depression than the general population) and ill health, among many other things.

Also, pessimists don’t persevere at the same rate as optimists, which means pessimists often don’t achieve goals that are achievable. Like, say, finding Continue reading

Are You Pessimist Lawyer?

The Bard said it best: “This is the winter of our discontent.” Yes, it’s that point in the winter where it’s gone on so long, I’m now convinced it’s never going to end, and my hands are never going to be warm until May at the earliest. Says the person who lives in the South.

smiley face in bird nest looking scared

Is the bluebird of unhappiness flying at you all the time? Maybe it's your pessimism talking. Image courtesy Stockvault.net.

In other words, pessimism is trying to have its way with me, yet again. Pessimism is one of those habits that recovering lawyers tend to drag around with them, even when they’re out of law.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately about pessimism, so of course that means you’re going to hear a lot about it shortly. The uber executive summary is that pessimism kills and wounds a lot of searches for dream jobs, dream careers, and dream lives. Particularly for those who are unhappy lawyers, addressing your level of pessimism is key to moving forward and ditching that unhappiness for something much better.

Are you a pessimist? Chances are if you’re a lawyer, you are. (That’s not just me pontificating; there’s data, which I’ll talk about next time.) You can take this survey—from Dr. Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Project—and find out. Then come back for the next installment and find out the consequences of pessimism for your alternative legal career search and for your life.

Or, start reading Learned Optimism, Seligman’s 1990 classic that presents tons of interesting research on the effects of pessimism and optimism on people’s lives. Yes, that would include lawyers. (Seligman is, in fact, married to a lawyer, so he is not blind to the pessimism that infects the legal profession.)

Get ready for some eye-opening stats on the effects of pessimism on just about everything in life. This is gonna rock your socks!

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer and recovering pessimist. She likes to remind her clients that it’s not how far you go, but how far you’ve come, that makes the real difference for their lives. Try coaching and see the difference in your own life—a free, no-obligation sample session is yours for the asking. Contact her at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com to schedule yours today.

Lawyer Pessimism Triggers

What’s your pessimism trigger? Actually I would bet you have several. As I’ve talked about before, lawyers tend to be highly pessimistic. Dr. Martin Seligman, who has made a career out of studying optimism, pessimism, and how they affect depression, found that law is the only career in which you perform better if you’re pessimistic.

professional woman behind half full glass

The glass test is actually pretty useful.

But if you want to get the heck out of law, or even just be a happier, healthier person while practicing law, dialing down the pessimism is crucial.

I’m working my way through Learned Optimism, which Seligman originally published in 1990. It should be required reading for any lawyer.

One of the, oh, 53 gazillion really interesting things Seligman discusses is the role of internal explanatory style in creating a pessimistic or optimistic outlook. Explanatory style is how you explain events to yourself. Here’s a personal example.

Yesterday I attended a lunch at a group where I didn’t know a soul.
I was a bit late, and so I missed most of the pre-lunch chit-chat. I did chat a bit with the folks at my table, but I had definitely missed the best opportunity to gather some business cards. After the program was over, some folks lingered, but most sped out to get back to the office. No one approached me or tried to draw me in to a conversation.

Here’s where explanatory style comes in. Continue reading