Suffering is Optional, Growth is Not: Four Invitations to Release the Pain of Being a Lawyer

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Explore:  Career Development

Recently, Alexis wrote an amazing post about the pain of being a lawyer. I’d like to talk a little more about that because so many (not all!) of my colleagues experience their professional lives unhappily and joylessly. Even folks I graduated with are already showing wear and tear from the traditional law business model—their enthusiasm falling flat.

It’s no coincidence that lawyers have one of the highest alcoholism/addiction rates of any profession… The way the law is currently practiced is soul-sucking!

Lawyers are a focal point of people’s suffering. We bear the weight of others’ inability to resolve their conflicts in ways that benefit everyone…

And, we often bear that weight while living under conditions that stunt our own growth and make our lives smaller, weaker, more burdensome.

In that post I mentioned, Alexis offered three things you can do right now to change the way you practice…

They were:

  1. Take 100% responsibility for your experience.

  2. Stop blaming.

  3. Recognize there is always a breakdown before a breakthrough.

These three things have served me over and over again; advice Alexis has given me herself and that I’ve taken, usually after much resistance and rather clumsily. She’s right though…

Without taking personal responsibility and being willing to breakthrough to something better, I would have stayed stuck in the life I had before.

I’d like to add to her post four “Invitations” that help me see my life for what it is each day. These four invitations can also help identify a breakdown for what it really is—a breakthrough

1. Are You Living Your “Dharma”?

Dharma is also known as right action. Dharma is the state of our thoughts, words, and actions being in alignment with one another.

In this state, there is no disagreement between what we say and what we feel. We need not cover up our thoughts or feelings because they are in harmony with our surroundings—and vice versa.

Some Buddhist teachers describe Dharma as the feeling that we’re swimming with the current of our lives. We don’t resist difficulty and change because it is an integral part of the whole. Our work becomes effortless.

Are your days effortful? How do you feel about your work and your life? Is the work you’re doing your work or someone else’s?

Are you swimming in the stream of your life or against it? Do your thoughts and feelings resonate with your actions? When you look in the mirror at night, do you congratulate yourself on a day lived well? Or are you fighting your life and your work?

The invitation is to examine what in your life needs adjusting to be in alignment—words, thoughts, or actions.

2. Are You Living Your Greatest Self-Expression?

Every human longs to express him- or herself, in some way. Our DNA demands that we show we existed by changing the world, even in small ways.

We need to create ample room mentally and emotionally for self-expression and we can be tempted to believe our lives require that we stop expressing ourselves.

Do you sense that you have an inner you that you’re not allowed to let out? Have you altered your appearance to conform to an office norm?

When you see someone dressed colorfully or with adornments, decoration, or other expressions of their own artistry, do you feel slightly (or seriously) jealous? Do you yearn for a more expressive you?

Do you just know you could do some things better if given a chance? Do you observe your firm’s processes, procedures, policies, and positions and wish you could have a say in it? Do you hold back in your work or in your creativity for fear of judgment?

The invitation is to allow your voice and expression to flow naturally, thanking your fear for its self-preservation and proceeding to express yourself anyway.

3. Do You Have Sovereignty?

Some of the greatest transformations I’ve seen happen when people make terrifying decisions to do something unexpected that others counseled against or that they assumed they could not do.

We need both comfort and excitement to have our share of life—but that comfort is so…comfortable. It’s easy to lose our right of self-determination when we get attached to that regular paycheck or to a lifestyle that we think makes others value us more.

At what cost to your liberation have you bought into a comfortable life? Are you resolved in doing what you’re doing for what you’re making? Do you walk around your office in fear of your job? Do you decide the timing, quality, nature of your work or does someone else decide those things for you?

Could you have more sovereignty but fail to take it for fear of too much sovereignty, greatness, or of setting expectations too high? Do you resent that you only work on one small piece of a bigger puzzle? Do you yearn to know and be in control of the full picture?

The invitation is to acknowledge when we’re playing small or hiding from our own greatness for safety’s sake and to encourage the habit of making courageous decisions.

4. Are You Expanding?

The quintessential nature of the human being is growth. If we aren’t in the act of becoming, we are in the act of dying. That’s it. Grow or die.

Are you committed to your growth as a human? Are you challenged to learn new things every day? Do you feel a growing sense of mastery over something (anything) in your life? Do you feel dissatisfied with the amount of new information you’ve acquired in the last year?

Can you see on your horizon great opportunity? Or do you sense that your future is filled with only more of the same? Do you yearn for an opportunity to do things differently?

The invitation is to challenge yourself every day—and to not hide behind our family’s needs as being more important than our personal growth. After all, we can best secure our family’s needs by harnessing our own potential.

If this post has supported, shifted, or altered you in any little way, please share it! If you have more Invitations, please share them in the comments below. At Law Business Mentors, we’re committed to changing the way the law is practiced. We want to help lawyers live the lives they want to live, and to be proud of our profession again

But transformation is an inside job—we start with our within and change the without from there. Join us!

Topics:  Career Development

Published In: Professional Practice Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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