I know, I know—mention something like “soul” to lawyers and a lot of eyes glaze over and brains tune out. Either through training or inclination, lawyers are not big on things that aren’t tangible.
(Feelings, even ones that drive people to murder, for some reason aren’t considered tangible by most attorneys.)
But whatever label you want to give it—your inner being, higher self, spiritual side—it has likes. Loves, even. And if you get it on your side as you search for better work-life balance or an alternative legal career, the going will be easier.
Your soul knows what it’s on earth to do. Your ego—usually doesn’t. That’s because we learn to listen to our ego and tune out our soul as we march through school, learning that rules and achievement and fitting in are more important than, well, most anything.
Remember that formal education for the masses began during the Industrial Revolution, and the goal was to produce workers who were educated enough to read instructions, understand machinery and follow processes. In other words, to fit into the mold the factories needed. This was a big shift for a society that was mostly agrarian. Today’s schools still largely follow that model, and thus produce excellent widget-makers and worker-bees. Which would be great if that is what your soul needed to be—but what if it’s not?
That is, frankly, why a lot of people are so dissatisfied with their work—it hasn’t matched their inner needs. But gosh, their resumes are impressive! Too bad their souls couldn’t care less.
So how do you figure out what your soul does care about? Start looking at your values. I’m not talking about family values, conservatism, liberalism, socialism, environmentalism—let’s just leave off the –isms for now.
Instead, notice what you get excited about when you talk to other people. Is there something that when you talk about it, a friend says “you just light up when you talk about that.”
Let’s take a seemingly trite example: me and IKEA. I adore IKEA. My friends make fun of how much I rave about it. That sounds like consumerism or materialism, which yeah are –isms that we’re not talking about right now.
But delving deeper, what I particularly love about IKEA is the combination of design and function of many of their products. Now we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we? Design married to function is an important value for me. In fact, one of my favorite jobs ever was editor in chief of a magazine, because I got to make a lot of functional design decisions—what kind of cover art and article art would we use, and how would it pull readers in or repel them? Where would call-outs and sidebars go–is this the best, most attractive way to present the information so it can be absorbed? And when we did a redesign of the whole magazine, I was in heaven.
As you go through your life, start noticing what you value. Keep a list. You can use it as a guide to rebalancing your life and finding the right work for you.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering attorney who found it much easier to get up in the morning once she started doing stuff in her day job that she actually enjoyed. She coaches lawyers and other professionals on how they can incorporate their loves into their work and life. What’s your joy? She’d love to hear about it. Drop her a line at jalvey AT jenniferalvey.com.