What stories do you tell yourself about an alternative legal career? I don’t mean the official, upbeat networking version, or even the realistically optimistic one you might tell a career coach or a therapist. No, I’m talking about the ones your inner lizard croons into your ear, sabotaging you.
It’s the story we attach to events that cause us the most pain, as Martha Beck reminded me in her new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature To Create the Life You Want. Yes, there is some pain when you aren’t getting any interviews in that new field you want to be in. It doesn’t feel great to not make the progress you want. But it’s the story you’re attaching to those lack of interviews and progress that makes you miserable and sure you are stuck in law forever.
Actually, “I’m going to be stuck in something I hate” is one of those stories you tell yourself. It’s that thought that makes it hard for you to sleep at night or get through the day without wanting to commit homicide at least 5 times.
Here are some other stories I’ll bet some of you are carting around:
- I’ll never be able to do what I love and pay the bills;
- Only really lucky people get to do that cool job, and I’m not that lucky;
- People who leave law just aren’t tough enough to cut it, but I can be tough;
- No one’s going to pay me to follow my dream of living in a cabin writing the Great American Novel;
and I’ll bet you have a few more choice ones to add.
Decide Your Truth
My favorite political science professor used to say, “Truth is contextual and consensual.” (See, Dr. D, I was paying attention!) We can debate the notion of great and ultimate truths in some other post, I suppose. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.
But for my money, Dr. D nailed it. These “truths” about leaving law and finding an alternative legal career only work in the context of depressed, dysfunctional people. They’re a profession-wide form of group-think. They get reinforced constantly. That’s why they feel so deeply true.
But theses stories are not TRUTH written on high. They’re only stories you are choosing. It’s these stories that are sabotaging your efforts and making you miserable.
Maybe it’s time to start re-writing your tired, dispiriting plot lines with some new truths that make it a helluva lot easier to get out of bed and do the work you need to do:
- I am here to do something amazing; I’m still discovering what that is.
- The Universe will take care of me. No, my ego may not like that I need to go live with relatives for a while, or tap into my 401(k), but I won’t starve or become a homeless person;
- My talents are on a mission to find their niche. This particular opportunity wasn’t it;
- There is nothing noble about letting toxic people shit all over me;
- I don’t need perfect conditions to write my heart. It’s with me in chaos and in tranquility, and wants to be heard no matter what.
It might be quite helpful to write down all your sabotaging stories in one column, and then re-write them in the next column. Don’t worry yet about deeply believing the new story, just let the alternative plot emerge. Then every time you hear the original negative story in your head, repeat the new plot 5 times. (Remember, 5 times is what it takes to remember something new! Maybe a few more times than that to believe, but that’s OK.)
Before you know it, your alternative legal career could start writing itself. And while you’re waiting, it will be much easier to enjoy the life you have with better stories to keep you company.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys on writing better stories for their lives and careers. Try out your own, personal story script-doctoring with a discounted, no-obligation sample coaching session. Email firstname.lastname@example.org today to schedule yours.