Pessimists don’t persevere at the same rate as optimists, which means pessimists often don’t achieve goals that are achievable. Like, say, finding an alternative legal career that gives you fulfillment and high satisfaction. The chief way that pessimism shows up is as learned helplessness. I’ve noticed that law firms are superb at teaching learned helplessness.
The act of walking away from a high-paying job that is eating your soul away can still seem the height of stupidity. As Seth Godin says, “It’s unreasonable to walk away from a good gig in today’s economy, even if you want to do something brave and original.” Unreasonable to a lizard brain, anyway. Lizards are highly threatened by dreams.
It is simply pure joy to dwell for 45 minutes in possibilities while on a fun date with yourself. Planning for projects goes on in the deep recesses of your brain for quite a while afterwards, and will at some point spring forth. That’s what these dates do—they get your mental wheels turning, and give your brain something fun and stimulating to chew on, rather than the spit and vinegar your inner critic would choke you and your happiness on.
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.
If your work doesn’t a hefty dose of inherent meaning for you, that lack can be the trigger for depression, rather than the symptom of it. Particularly when you ignore your creative side, routine legal work will never have enough meaning to combat unhappiness or depression. You just can’t get the ratio of creative: routine/boring/tedious work high enough.
it’s a travesty when talented, highly educated adults ignore their inclinations, interests and dreams because they can’t fit them into the paltry product offerings of a standard-issue legal career. The solution? Stop shopping for the standard legal career product. Create your career instead.
Many of those “truths” we believe about life aren’t so much universally true as self-fulfilling prophecy. See if you can spot a few of your own prophecies. It really will help in your search for a better job, in or outside of law.
Once you’ve got that shiny JD, the alternative to a legal career is the road less traveled. The signposts are sometimes faint or indecipherable. The most popular maps are often inaccurate or take you to places you don’t really want to go. It helps a lot to have a tour guide. In other words, it’s easy to get stuck and founder if you’re not alert.
As non-linear as it sounds, joy helps you find that wonderful new alternative legal career you’ve been looking for. Think about it—assuming credentials are 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.
Dr. Karl Pahlnack says it eloquently: Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.” Yes, even for lawyers.