How to be a happy lawyer

With so much negativity surrounding the legal profession, I thought on this Monday morning a jolt of sunshine and happiness might be appreciated by all of my friends in the legal world. So, in researching for today’s blog post I cam across a post by Dan Bowling for the Careerist. Dan is a lecturer at Duke, and he teaches a course on lawyers and personal well-being. I wonder if other professions have such courses (I am told by Dentist friends that such courses may be needed in Dental school!)  Dan posits that happiness is a choice, and some lawyers are more effective at choosing less miserable alternatives than their pessimistic counterparts.

Professor Bowling outlined six ways that our profession can make the choice to be happy in a blog post for the Careerist. The headings are his…the pithy observations are mine:

1) See the big picture. Happy lawyers do not lose sight of the larger view. They have perspective and do not allow setbacks to cause temporary or long-term paralysis. I find this one to be particularly difficult. Dale Carnegie taught to compartmentalize things, to be able to let go of something that happened in one hour to better prepare for the next. It reminds me of how a parent can find their telephone voice? You know…the one you use when you have to pick up the phone either right after you finish yelling at your child or mid-yell? It always amazed me how this could be done…

2) Look on the bright side and relish moments of laughter, which can serve as mood boosters for you and everyone around you. Both my wife and I are attorneys…she practices, and I chose to use my degree to be a legal recruiter. My wife is also Russian. As a couple, we are not typically known for our optimism, but we do have the ability to laugh. Typically at ourselves, and she at me. Sometimes a dose of laughter is really all that is needed.

3) Stop being such a pessimist. In law school, we were trained to look at the glass as half-full, only after determining that the glass had no chips or other visible manufacturing flaws, that the liquid in the glass may or may not be water, may or may not be a choking hazard, and who would be liable if someone choked on drinking the water…have you ever noticed that happy people see the glass half-full? That their minds were not molded to think of worst-case scenarios in all matters? It is tough to turn off this part of our brain, but by doing so in non-work situations it can prove beneficial to our well-being, and people may want to spend more time with us. Which leads me to the next one…

4) Build positive relationships with others. Have you ever found that person who made some aspect of you better? Not necessarily a spouse, but a friend who brought out your sense of humor that may have been dormant for a long time, or another who helps you think differently? Find and keep those people in your life, which leads to

5) Stop multitasking, and focus on those friends and family. Last week I went to lunch with a friend of mine from high-school. At one time we were close, envisioning attending each other’s weddings, and sharing each other’s important family milestones together. I still have tremendous affection for him, and he me, but we got busy. Busy with our businesses, busy with our kids, our communities, our lives. At lunch we laughed, recounted some old times, and caught up. I shared with him that my Mom had died two years ago. He was angry and hurt. I was wrong to have let this friendship lay fallow for so long. Is there anyone out there like that for you?

6) Get physical. It actually gets you feeling better, and reduces stress. If you can’t get out, do it in the office. A couple of push-ups, go for a quick walk, hit a punching bag, whatever. It helps.

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