Do you remember when you first decided to become a lawyer? Was it when you were a kid, and everyone said you’d make a great lawyer because you liked to “debate” everything? Maybe it was from seeing injustice in the world? Or a family member was an attorney? Whether you went right to law school from college or returned after a being out in the world, it took a lot to get where you are. Remember how exciting it was that day you were handed your diploma, or passed the Bar? And yet, everyone knows a lawyer who is miserable or who has left the profession. So why do lawyers have such high job dissatisfaction?
Somewhere along the way, the polish of the career passion somehow faded to a jaded day-to-day existence. Maybe it was when you found that while striving to be successful and save the world (or just your clients), you were spending 10 or 12 hours a day or some 2,100 hours a year managing a large workload, dealing with the daily grind of client/management demands and having to meet grueling deadlines and it was no longer the dream you had imagined.
Where is the Joy?
A.T. Kearney conducted a Joy at Work study in December 2018 and they found that nearly 90% of respondents said that they expected to experience a substantial degree of joy at work, yet only 37% report that such is their actual experience. Lack of joy, purpose and meaning can contribute to general dissatisfaction as well as stress and burnout. Lawyers struggling with career burnout, stress, and the drive for financial and professional success are the leading factors for depression and substance abuse, according to the 2016 Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and ABA comprehensive study, The Journal of Addiction Medicine study.
So how can you bring a sense of joy and purpose back to your career, increase your job satisfaction and reconnect to what got you here in the first place? Here are five ways you might consider to reignite your passion. You can do these exercises by journaling, in a meditation practice or just in mindful contemplation when you are driving, in the shower, taking a walking, or any time you can let your mind wander!
1. Think About Why You Wanted to become a Lawyer in the First Place.
- What made being a lawyer an exciting for you?
- What did you see as fulfilling and meaningful?
- Does that still resonate with you?
- Are you fulfilling your purpose/calling as a lawyer?
2. Connect with Gratitude and Focus on the Positive in Your Life.
- Take some time to connect with everything you have gained from being a lawyer, whether it’s intellectually, meaningfully/purposely, financially, self-identity-wise or otherwise.
- Write down 10, 20 or even 50 reasons why you’re grateful for where you are today and for all that your career has given you.
3. Think About You Really Enjoy and/or Makes You Proud in Your Current or Recent Job.
- Was there something significant or exciting that resonated with you, that gave you a sense of accomplishment, purpose or meaning?
- What was it that you did that had a significant impact and why was this important to you either professionally or personally?
- What do you love about your current job or from being a lawyer?
4. Determine what are your professional career goals in the Next One, Three and Five Years.
Take some time to think about your immediate next steps and long-term goals. Maybe you want to be partner, start your own practice, go in-house, retire or do something completely different either as a full-time career or a thriving side hustle. As an executive coach, I have consistently found that my clients feel more energized and focused when they have clear aspirations and goals.
Once you have clarity on what you want from your career, create SMART (Specific /Measurable/ Achievable / Realistic/Time-based) action plans as a personal contract—what do you want to commit to and by when? Keep this action plan as a guide as you make choices and decisions so that you are consistently moving towards what you really want.
5. Remember: Work Is Not Life and Life is not Work.
Stress has a deleterious impact on your overall wellbeing, psychology, physiology and performance. Finding the time to do things that bring you joy outside of work will have a positive impact on your ability to maintain your mental health, sustain your wellbeing and build resiliency to rebound from adversity. While it seems contradictory, taking time away for work to refresh and regroup will actually make you more effective and efficient. Things that you can do include hobbies, exercise, meditation or yoga, connecting with friends and family, social action and vacations.
Reconnecting with your passion is not only good for your practice, it’s good for your life! Ellen Cohen