By starting to take steps to change your hours, you change your days, and then your years. Don’t let happiness simply dance on your horizon. Get closer, a few hours at a time.
The head of the neuroscience lab at NYU, Dr. Elizabeth Phelps, has pointed out, “If you are pessimistic, you are unlikely to even try” to do things that will help you improve or guard your health. Wow. This may, just possibly, sound like a familiar dynamic to lawyers.
The good news is, pessimism is not completely hard-wired. It is, to a significant extent, learned behavior. That means, naturally, that it can be unlearned, and replaced with more useful ways of viewing problems.
Looking first and foremost for the high pay, without delving into the messy reasons you aren’t happy in law, is following the same path that got you into law in the first place. Sooner (usually) or later, you will be at this same point again, just with a different job title.
More fundamentally, lawyers (and many, many others) cling to certainty because then, they can delude themselves that they are safe. Or as Brené Brown says, certainly keeps us from feeling vulnerable. Lawyers in particular loathe vulnerability. They’ll do damn near anything to avoid that chest-tightening feeling.
What you need, and what is fantastically hard for driven professionals like lawyers, is to simply let your mind wander with some ideas that are not calculated to solve a problem. To ponder without an agenda. To allow yourself to simply be, in all your unproductive glory. Walking is a great way to get to this state.
The opportunity to simply let our minds drift sounds so unimportant, doesn’t it? But it is vital. A mind without a project to obsess over, a problem to solve, a stimulus to respond to, has the time it needs to process. Unstructured time is how we digest some of our lives. With the constant barrage of screens, we have more mental food to digest, and thus an even higher need for mental wandering.
Sometimes, signature strengths help clients see themselves in a whole new light. One client, who had worked in a big law firm and then in an attorney general’s office, found that “creativity” was one of his top, or signature, strengths. At first, he thought, “but I’m not artistic!” When he read the description of creativity, though, his world changed in an instant.
He realized that opening a business aimed at an emerging type of health and wellness was highly creative, and went off to do just that.
I view following our interests and joys as giving the Universe more material and opportunities to work some seeming magic in our lives. If you stay really firmly in your narrow rut of to-do lists, it is just harder for those coincidences—which aren’t really coincidences at all—to happen.