A fun little game to stir up regrets is to ask yourself what you would change from your past if you had a time machine. Would you take an opportunity that you missed? Would you refrain from doing something that had negative consequences? Would you face a fear? This exercise can highlight events in our past that, through hindsight, seem to be a detriment to our present life as we experience it. Regrets can uncomfortable, and at times downright painful. The major flaw of this game is that it devalues regrets, makes us wish for an impossible alternate reality, and often increases shame and helplessness.
October is ADHD Awareness month. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is present in about 4-5% of adults. Those dealing with ADHD have a range of experiences, but many encounter difficulty concentrating at times, become overly focused on specific things at other times, struggle to complete work on time, have organizational issues, find it difficult to follow directions to their completion, and exhibit impulsivity. These (and other) symptoms have a real effect on professional functioning, personal relationships, and emotional well-being. And while most people talk about ADHD as a hurdle to overcome, there are also many people who look to the advantages of ADHD as tools for success. Here are a few such examples, a podcast and an article.
Recently a comprehensive report was published by the ABA titled “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” (find the full text here). Within its pages you will find numerous recommendations for how to increase the well-being of the legal community from multiple sources (law schools, judges, attorney regulators, bar associations, employers, etc.). The report starts, as any report on well-being should start, with the definition of lawyer well-being.
Anxiety lives in the future. It cannot exist in the present moment. If something bad is happening in the present moment, you might not like it, but you are not anxious about it. Anxiety requires the ambiguity of the future. The never-ending “what if” questions. You cannot ask “what if” questions about what has already happened, or what is currently happening. Anxiety thrives in the unknown.
In recent months, there has been an increase in the discussions of the high rates of substance abuse and mental health issues burdening lawyers, rates much higher than the general population. A recent study has confirmed what many of us…
We all have times in our lives when things feel chaotic; when it feels like everything that is important in our lives is outside of our control and we cannot improve our plight. The typical reaction to this situation is to exert more effort directed at changing things that are outside of our control, followed by an increase in our stress. Obviously, this is an ineffective strategy, yet it is one that we almost instinctively attempt. So instead of running on that hamster wheel, what else can you do?
Among the numerous factors that seem to contribute to the greatly amplified rate of depression among lawyers is the fact that the sense of mission, of using a law degree to make a positive contribution to the world, which motivation many people to go to law school, can evaporate in the context of real-world ways to make a living and repay those humongous student loans. Some studies suggest that those lawyers whose work lives focus on doing good for society (typically lower paid jobs) are actually in better moods.
One of the ways that stress steals your contentment in life is by how quickly we can start to waste most of our free time thinking and worrying about the future. When you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it can be hard to shut off the thoughts about what you need to do tomorrow, how you are going to manage a potential crisis at work, how will your superior at the firm react to you requesting time off, or how you need to pull in more clients to keep the practice afloat. These thoughts often do not have concrete solutions. There are no simple answers that will satisfy the concern that you feel. Yet we almost instinctively respond to stress by wasting more time worrying about the sources of that stress.
We all want to succeed. We want to make the best decisions, complete our work successfully, and feel competent in the things we are asked to do. However, when our desire for success becomes a pursuit of perfection, analysis paralysis can be the by-product of the fear of failure. When we want perfection so badly or when we fear failing too much, making the wrong decision can seem like the worst thing ever. This can influence us to avoid an uncomfortable decision, feeling frozen or weighed down; your brain unable to act.
There is probably no better example of acting before you feel like it than the concept of bravery. By definition, bravery requires one to act in the face of fear, not the absence of it. We can often misuse bravery to imply that someone does not experience fear in a situation (“Look at her, she’s so confident and brave. Nothing rattles her.”). When we misuse the word bravery we can inadvertently tell ourselves that being brave requires a sense of unflappable confidence. Bravery suddenly seems at odds with doubt and fear. Quite the contrary, bravery is acting despite our doubt and fear.