This Is Shit: If unhappy, yet creative lawyers haven’t crashed and burned on the shoals of This Is Tricky, this is usually where we founder. Comparing our fledgling efforts to the final product of masters runs rampant. All the warts of reality scream at us, and we are keenly aware of how much distance there is between our original vision and where we are. Oh, how agonizing that distance is! And we have little, if any, idea of how to fix it. Our usual bag of tricks, whether paltry or plentiful, has failed us.
I remain amazed at how well the Uh-Oh Bingo technique works to defuse anxiety, so I thought it was high time to share it. The holidays are filled with potential (likely?) landmines of unmet expectations, both yours and those foisted on you. Rather than get all worked up about Aunt Gertrude’s insensitive comments about your weight, your lack of children, your lackluster career or your lack of $1M in the bank, put her likely carping on the card. Then sit back and laugh.
The head of the neuroscience lab at NYU, Dr. Elizabeth Phelps, has pointed out, “If you are pessimistic, you are unlikely to even try” to do things that will help you improve or guard your health. Wow. This may, just possibly, sound like a familiar dynamic to lawyers.
The good news is, pessimism is not completely hard-wired. It is, to a significant extent, learned behavior. That means, naturally, that it can be unlearned, and replaced with more useful ways of viewing problems.
Looking first and foremost for the high pay, without delving into the messy reasons you aren’t happy in law, is following the same path that got you into law in the first place. Sooner (usually) or later, you will be at this same point again, just with a different job title.
More fundamentally, lawyers (and many, many others) cling to certainty because then, they can delude themselves that they are safe. Or as Brené Brown says, certainly keeps us from feeling vulnerable. Lawyers in particular loathe vulnerability. They’ll do damn near anything to avoid that chest-tightening feeling.
What you need, and what is fantastically hard for driven professionals like lawyers, is to simply let your mind wander with some ideas that are not calculated to solve a problem. To ponder without an agenda. To allow yourself to simply be, in all your unproductive glory. Walking is a great way to get to this state.
The opportunity to simply let our minds drift sounds so unimportant, doesn’t it? But it is vital. A mind without a project to obsess over, a problem to solve, a stimulus to respond to, has the time it needs to process. Unstructured time is how we digest some of our lives. With the constant barrage of screens, we have more mental food to digest, and thus an even higher need for mental wandering.