When I started the process of leaving law, one of the gazillion things I did was declutter my closet. I had been practicing for about 6 years at that point, but I still had many pieces from my law school days. They didn’t fit, and it was time to purge a lot of things that didn’t fit in the life I wanted.
As I started to sort through my clothes, I noticed something: My clothes from law school and my first couple years of practice were bright and colorful. There was the red wool sheath that looked awesome until I gained weight. There was the Monet-looking blue, purple and pink print party dress that I loved. Alas, outgrown and too young-girl looking.
But the clothes I had bought from about my third year of practice and beyond were increasingly safe and boring. Dark suits, grey dresses, cream and white blouses. I don’t remember pink of any shade—and it’s my favorite color. Nor was there any shade of teal or red, my other go-to colors.
So there it was, the physical evidence of what law was doing to my soul.
I’m betting you wouldn’t have to look very hard in your life to see a similar pattern of evidence. Care to share in the comments below?
Working from the Outside In
Here’s the cool thing: While internal change gets reflected on the outside, it works in the other direction, too. You can create internal change from making different external choices. That’s the whole basis for cognitive behavioral therapy, after all.
If you add things in your life that give you joy, guess what? You might just be more joyful.
If you don’t know what brings you joy, go looking. Give yourself permission to spend an hour one week, maybe taking an actual lunch hour. When you’re looking, be open. Tell your rational brain to go take a nap or something. It’s been working overtime anyway.
Here’s how you find a joy talisman. Go to a store, museum, or even a pasture. Doesn’t matter, as long as the place calls to you. The call doesn’t need to be loud, but persistent is good.
- If you see a skein of yarn that calls to you, buy it—even if you don’t knit, crochet, do needlework or whatever.
- If you find some polished stones that pull you toward them as if magnetized—get them. Find out later where they are pulling you.
- If you see a journal or some paper that makes you feel a bit giddy with possibility—grab it. It doesn’t matter if you have an actual plan for it yet.
The trick here is that your joy talisman doesn’t need to carry a big price tag. You just need a small reminder of what brings you joy, one that you can see, touch, hear, taste or smell.
Let yourself go there, to that place you tell yourself you’re not allowed to visit. Put the physical manifestations of joy into your life, and see how the spark spreads fire and passion to your life.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer whose wardrobe sports her favorite colors: pink, red, teal and purple. There is still some black, because, hey, it goes with everything! She coaches attorneys on restoring their unique joys to their lives and work. Email her today for a discounted, no-obligation sample coaching session to get more help finding a joy talisman for yourself: email@example.com.