When people tried to talk to me about appreciating my life, and I was hating most of it, I wanted to smack them. Hard. And then shriek and carry on a bit about “can’t you see how sucky my life really is???”
So I get it if you’re rolling your eyes about now, but I hope you’ll bear with me anyway.
Savoring is really necessary to a fulfilled life. But it’s a lost art in much of our modern lives. It seems a simplistic solution to a complicated problems: What do you mean, I should just pay attention to good things, and my life will get better? Ha!
But savoring works on a couple levels.
First, of course, is the actual moment–the luscious taste of some really excellent chocolate, the feel of silk against the skin, the sight of mist rising off a lake, the sound of a cello played well. Or, insert your own favorite sensation. Pay exquisite attention to what you’re experiencing, with every sense you can. Focus.
Savoring gives you, in the moment itself, relief from the demons of the past and the worries of the future. That can be pretty darn useful at times–to simply be in a moment and realize you are surviving it. Enjoying it, even.
Yet more important is how savoring can affect your brain’s thought ruts. We all have mental ruts, and for many attorneys (and other professionals, attorneys are not THAT special!) those pathways are full of fears and demons:
- Things never work out for me.
- You have to suffer to get ahead.
- People are always out to stab you in the back.
- I’ll never have enough money to get ahead.
You get the idea. In fact, I’ll bet you’ve got a few special ones of your very own.
By savoring, we start the process of building new, and hopefully better, mental ruts. I can’t take credit for this insight, because many before me have articulated it. I like Martha Beck’s take on it in her book Steering by Starlight (2008):
Neurologists like to say ‘what fires together, wires together.’ This means that when we make mental associations, we form literal paths in our nervous systems that create clusters of thoughts and physiological changes. As we grow, learn, and get bombarded by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, most of us develop clusters of fear, rage, or sadness that becomes deeply ‘hardwired.’ We aren’t born with these negative feelings. . . .
[T]he negative reaction-clusters–the stress reactions, the emotional pain, and the physical weakness that are wired together in your brain and body–can be rewired. The associative learning that makes us feel depressed, anxious, and old can be unlearned. . . .
You can achieve this by doing deliberately what the brain-body is always doing by default: creating associations that fire together and therefore wire together.
So savoring fills a really important role as you create the life you want: It lays new neural pathways for your mind to run along. While it sounds easy, it is not. Particularly when your professional environment is all about pressure and making deadlines, it’s hard to conceive of taking the time to savor. For most recovering lawyers, it’s going to take some effort to allow yourself the pleasure of creating these pathways.
So start small. Savor a pleasant moment, instead of letting it slip past unnoticed. Savor it to its fullest extent.
Maybe next, you can even create a small savoring opportunity, like a piece of chocolate or a cup of raspberries. Or a few moments of cherished music. You could, if you’re feeling really wild, try to do this every day. Just sayin’.
Whatever you decide, I’d love to hear about how it went.
Jennifer Alvey is a professional career transition coach who like to savor every bit of dark chocolate that happens near her. What’s your favorite savor? Drop a comment or a line to jalvey AT jenniferalvey.com.