Joy is contagious. I knew that, but then I got that message 3 times in one day from some Dove dark chocolate wrappers, so I knew the Universe was kicking me in the butt and telling me to write about it for all you unhappy attorneys who want a better job and life.
Joy isn’t the only emotion that is contagious. Researchers say that enthusiasm, sadness, fear and anger are, too. Indeed, most emotions are catching–and negative emotions may be easier to catch than positive ones.
There’s even research that says “feelings circulate in patterns analogous to what’s seen from epidemiological models of disease.”
We’ve all experienced this. Remember studying for the bar or even law school finals? You’d be fine with the amount of work you had been putting in, until you ran into THAT person. You know, the one who was always panicked, anxious and sure he was going to fail no matter how well the practice exams were going, and then suddenly–you were too.
I’ll bet you have a few Emotional Typhoid Marys in your life. Most of us do. Emotional Typhoid Marys spread gloom, doubt and uncertainty about your ability to find work that you love. If you express optimism about finding a new career, the ETM tells you 5 dog-eat-dog stories in under 5 minutes, and drains your hope and conviction. Your momentum vanishes. You spend hours, days, maybe weeks getting over their infection.
Emotional Typhoid Marys frequently huddle together in law firms, since misery likes company. And there, they spread their disease of pessimism, anger and gloom. That’s one reason some lawyers find it so hard to break free of their misery-inducing jobs—they’re being constantly re-infected by the despair and hopelessness that Emotional Typhoid Marys spread in their wake.
So the obvious solution is to find some Susie Sunshines to hang with, and catch their joy.
Lawyers tend to be highly suspicious of Susie Sunshines, because they’re convinced that Susie Sunshines simply ignore unpleasant aspects of reality. Then, when something bad does happen to a Susie Sunshine, they say “Aha! See, I was right.” (It’s that evidence-gathering thing we do to support the conclusions we already reached without facts.)
Very often, though, Susie Sunshines see that things can be tough, but are just as convinced that things will eventually get better. They also think that Emotional Typhoid Marys look for problems and troubles, and thus draw those things to themselves. Susie Sunshines instinctively get that the pessimism and gloom of ETMs is catching.
As non-linear as it sounds, joy helps you find that wonderful new alternative legal career you’ve been looking for. It helps you find a better job in the legal world, too, if that’s what you’re after. Think about it—assuming credentials are roughly (very roughly) equal, who would you want to hire: the anxious, fearful person who makes you feel they will suck the life out of you, or the confident, happy one who makes you think they will make your life easier at work? Exactly. So, it’s time to go catch yourself some joy.
Here are some ideas for getting started:
- Take a drumming class, or find a drumming circle or concert. The pulsating rhythm can really pull something good from the depths of your soul. No need to know how to read music. If you can sing or clap Row Your Boat, you’ve got enough rhythm to drum.
- Walk a labyrinth. It’s an amazing, often transformational experience. You can find labyrinths in all kinds of places—cathedrals, gardens, farms, hospitals, and historic monuments. Sometimes private individuals make them and open them to the public periodically. Here’s a link to the Labyrinth Locator to help you find one near you—or you could make your own, with a sheet and some tape or paint and some Googling.
- Take up knitting or crocheting. (Yes, even men do this.) In addition to the soothing, hypnotic effect of wrapping string around sticks, there’s the intense satisfaction of making something your veryownself. Plus, many yarn shops offer stitch-and-bitch sessions, where you simply bring your project and sit around with others working on their projects. Help and fun conversation at the same time.
- Go horseback riding. Horses may be large and strong, but they are also extremely patient and generous. There’s magic in connecting with a creature like that. Plus you get out in the fresh (well, frigid for many of us right now) air, and closer to nature’s rhythms. Take a bag of baby carrots with you, and you’ll be all set. And here’s a good place online for some horse gear if you want to make this a regular thing.
- Go dancing. Right after singing, dancing is the thing that humans have done for thousands of years to express their joy. There’s contra dancing, club dancing, ballroom dancing, swing dancing, Latin dancing, and many without a formal name. Pick one. Let your fears and inhibitions go, and catch the joy there.
And if none of these ideas appeal to you? Or if you try some and still aren’t feeling the joy? Drop me a line and let’s talk. I’ll coach you to find your joy.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who eats far too many Dove Promises dark chocolates. But they do help her coach attorneys to find joy in their work and lives. If you need some help finding that joy, drop Jennifer a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or ask about a discounted sample coaching session.