It’s finally summer, and I am grateful for that. Speaking of being grateful, every day, I am thankful for something wonderful in my life. Today I am thankful that I have taken the steps to be a happy and successful lawyer. As an advocate for attorney wellness, I’d like to share some common traits that lawyers who live happy and fulfilling lives embrace.
A positive attitude
Have you ever heard of Debbie Downer? Debbie is a fictional character from Saturday Night Live who always brings up depressing topics when hanging out with her friends. For example, when having breakfast at Disney World and the waiter asks if they want steak and eggs, Debbie says, “Ever since they found mad cow disease in the U.S., I’m not taking any chances.” Being happy starts with a positive attitude. Instead of bringing up mad cow disease, Debbie could have been positive by saying, “I’m so thankful that I can make my own choices on what I want to eat this morning. I think I will have the fresh fruit for breakfast.” Always look on the bright side, instead of focusing on the negative parts of life.
If you catch yourself seeing the glass as half empty, try to catch yourself before the negative thoughts sink in. Then think of something positive instead.
Don’t be a Debbie Downer!
Lawyers are busy at all hours of the day. We are constantly meeting deadlines, meeting with clients, volunteering, making phone calls, going to court. Many lawyers take advantage of all that technology can do to make their lives easier. Apps are available specifically for lawyers for time management, billing, meditation, taking notes, calendaring, file storage, etc. Do a google search for “best apps for attorneys” and you will find many time-saving tools that will help you succeed.
Balancing work and life is definitely a challenge for lawyers, but it can be done. You might find it difficult to find balance when you are required to be accessible at all times. Try inheriting a mindset where you work to live, not live to work. Living to work can lead to stress, burnout, depression, substance abuse and even suicide. You owe it to yourself to find balance in your life. A healthy balance consists of work, hobbies, family time and setting aside time for yourself to do activities that you enjoy. The technology apps that were mentioned above can help you set aside time for life outside of the office.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from tough situations. Maybe you didn’t land the client you had hoped for or you lost a trial. Being able to accept defeat and move on are imperative to a lawyer’s wellbeing. Since lawyers tend to dwell on what went wrong instead of learning from their mistakes or misfortunes, it is crucial to learn how to be resilient and bounce back.
Be yourself! Maybe you like to wear flowers in your hair or do things differently than some of your other colleagues. That’s ok.
“People are their happiest when they are being their authentic self. In the image-conscious world we live in and high pressure environments in which lawyers operate, lawyers are often at risk of disconnecting their authentic self from the image they are projecting to clients and colleagues. Doing this, though, leaves us out of balance and that leads to stress.”1
All lawyers have goals—whether they are financial, related to family, clients or the office—but make sure you set realistic ones. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Set easy and challenging goals that you know you can obtain at some point. You might not reach your goal of being able to recover $250,000 for crime victims in one year, but you know you can achieve this goal over five years.
Confident lawyers are not afraid to fail. They know that they can learn life lessons from failure. They listen more than they speak. They know how to ask for help and that they don’t have all of the answers. They own up to their mistakes. Don’t confuse confidence with cockiness, though. Cocky people think they can never be proven wrong, they brag, and they believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Cockiness is a sign of insecurity.
Happy lawyers make wellness a top priority. They take the necessary steps to remain competent. When you are well, you are at your best, which not only makes you feel great, but it also benefits your clients.
If you are unhappy, depressed, suffering from substance abuse, burnout, or stress, and you believe it is affecting your life, the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program can provide CONFIDENTIAL help. For more information, go to ohiolap.org or call (800) 348-4343 or (614) 586-0621.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 Columbus Bar Lawyers Quarterly.