Saddest Lawyers: “I Don’t Even Know What I Like Doing”

Doing what the teachers say may not put you in touch with what you should do with your life. But hey, at least there's iPads for distraction, right?

Doing what the teachers say may not put you in touch with what you should do with your life. But hey, at least there’s iPads for distraction, right?

A lot of you know you hate law. But a lot of you also do not know what you would do if you had free time, except maybe sleep. I’m not talking about taking any steps toward making a career change, mind you; I’m talking about the basic concept of doing something purely for fun.

People who have no idea of how to have fun have been marching along to society’s, parents’, and teachers’ idea of what they should do for a very, heartbreakingly long time. They have become numb to their own desires and their own voice.

Far too many lawyers fall into this category. One-third to one-half of my clients usually fall into this category when they initially contact me. It’s often the result of being a smart kid who does well in school. Those around you think all those A’s should be encouraged; after all, those grades will be terrific on your college application.

And that may be just fine with you, because great grades sure look like the start of the path to a good life, and you like school anyway. In fact, you internalize all this and don’t explore non-academic things that won’t help that college application, like art, dancing, writing poetry, ultimate frisbee, or making goofy videos. Because unless you have some unbelievable gift in a non-academic area, these things aren’t likely to win you awards and praise. They are, sadly, usually viewed as time-wasters.

Except, they’re not. Exploring stuff simply because you’re interested in it is how you get to know yourself and honor that inner voice. Defaulting to the choice that allows you to check off a punch list item on the road to success—and only because it helps guarantee “success”—guarantees only that you will lose touch with yourself a little bit more.

Fun Is Mandatory!

This is why I natter on pretty damned endlessly about taking Artist Dates, or generally going out and doing something fun just for the hell of it. Things that feel fun and festive hold the key to what energizes you. Things fun and festive are not necessarily what you’ll end up doing when you change careers; they may simply remain the way you recharge and get back in touch with your authentic self.

But without getting some energy back into your soul, the chances of making a career change (that isn’t more of the same) are pretty slim. You deserve better than that.

Of course, what’s fun for you may not be everyone else’s idea of fun. For example, I love poking around junktique stores, but think that an invitation to zipline sounds like an invitation to torture. Many of you might feel exactly the opposite.

13 Ways To Leave Your Grouchy Inner Lawyer Behind

With that in mind, here are some ideas for going out and finding your own fun (if you truly can’t figure that out for yourself). Pick one and set aside a non-negotiable hour for doing it, once weekly.

  1. Visit a butterfly pavilion;
  2. Go horseback riding;
  3. Take a home tour;
  4. Go ice skating;
  5. Go to an art store;
  6. Climb a rock wall;
  7. Take a garden tour;
  8. Go to a trampoline park;
  9. Go to a small, intimate concert;
  10. Paint some pottery;
  11. Take a ghost tour;
  12. Paint a canvas with a group; or
  13. Go to a fabric store.

Do something fun, weekly, for a whole month, and see if you don’t hear that inner voice a bit more clearly. If it starts telling you even more loudly how much it hates what you’re doing for work, maybe you should start listening.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who helps unhappy attorneys find their fun, so they can breathe life into new careers. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, schedule a discounted sample session by contacting Jennifer at jalvey@jenniferalvey.com.

9 thoughts on “Saddest Lawyers: “I Don’t Even Know What I Like Doing”

  1. Great point. I think this tendency also comes from the narcissistic parent/perfectionist kid trap that is common among law students. If you’ve grown up seeing your value defined by pleasing the never-satisfied parent, you stop paying attention to what YOU actually like and care about.

  2. OMG, Jennifer and Alison, you’ve both NAILED IT. I’ve recovered a lot of myself, but there was a big, long gap in life when I lost who I am to great grades, graduate degrees, law degrees, and the frustrated ambitious parent I can never please (until I am President and a billionaire). It’s sad to be 40 and lose sight, for times, of what you enjoy but it can be fixed (I think, I continue to believe).

  3. I have been reading your site the over 2 years. Am pleased to say am finally leaving BigLaw in UK, going inhouse and training as a psychotherapist. Have never felt freer and more passionate. Your site gave me hope in some of my darker moments and made me feel less alone.

    Thanks.

  4. Pingback: Simple Tips for a Less Stressful Lawyer Life | Leaving the Law

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