Book ClubWellness

Are You Tired of Feeling Unhappy in Your Law Practice?

Have you ever had the experience where something comes across your path at just the right time? Almost like there was some sort of force at work? I had that happen recently while scrolling through a list of podcasts looking for something to listen to. One title caught my eye: “But, Are You Happy??” an episode of The Rachel Hollis Podcast. After struggling with what direction I wanted to take my firm, this podcast was just what I needed to push me where I knew I needed to go but didn’t want to say it out loud. Here are my three biggest takeaways from the episode as they relate to my life as a lawyer: 

Define Success For Yourself 

As soon as we enter law school, success is defined for us: graduate, pass the bar, join a big law firm as an associate, make money, become a partner, and make more money. The end. Hearing only this limited narrative, I didn’t realize there were non-practicing professionals who had some really cool jobs. Even once I got into practice and met people with all different types of jobs, it was hard for me to break free of that limited definition of success. Because I was a solo practitioner that served everyday people, it always felt like I wasn’t considered successful by the profession at large. So I worked harder to ‘prove’ myself. I took on more high-conflict cases so I could look and talk like the other lawyers around me. I had a scarcity mindset, which caused me to keep ramping up the pace until one day I walked out of a mediation and thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” Like so many others, I was ready to walk away from the profession altogether. 

Luckily, my next thought was “I didn’t come this far to just come this far.” I worked my tail off to change careers, go to law school at night while working full-time, start a firm on my own, and accomplish what I have so far. I wasn’t going to give it all up just like that. Instead, I decided to throw the traditional definition of success in a dumpster and light it on fire. I shifted my mindset to one of abundance. I was going to decide for myself what made me successful and where I would focus on building wealth. I asked myself a question similar to the one Rachel shares in the podcast: “If you had only three years left, are you proud of the way you are living?”

Talk about a gut check. When I took an honest look at how I was living, I wasn’t proud. I was exhausted and on the verge of burnout (if not there already). I realized that if it were all to end tomorrow, I wasn’t going to wish I had worked more. I wasn’t going to wish I had “stuck it out” or made more money or kept chasing the next big thing. And I certainly wasn’t going to give a flying you-know-what about the legal profession’s traditions. Instead, I was going to wish I had spent more time with my kids. That I had taken better care of myself. That I rested more and did more things that brought me joy.

So why wasn’t I doing that now?

Today, one way I define success is never having to ask permission for how I spend my day. I stopped taking litigation work and started spending more time outside. I go to the gym most days and enjoy my nights and weekends work-free. I continue to work with amazing clients and now enjoy helping them stay out of court. 

If we’re going to work this hard building our businesses, shouldn’t we do it for ourselves and not some external measure?

Learn to Be Content 

As entrepreneurs, our nature is to set a goal, achieve the goal, and then set a bigger one. While this ambition is amazing and can help us to achieve great things, it can also be our downfall. Taking this approach means there’s always a bigger mountain to climb. There’s always a bigger fish to catch. We say things like, “I’ll rest when I hit $200,000 in sales” and then we reach it and say, “Well, if I can sell $200,000, I can for sure sell $300,000. I’ll rest when I hit that number.” But guess what happens? We don’t rest. We just keep going, chasing the next big thing. 

In the podcast, Rachel refers to a book called The Gap and the Gain. It’s a fantastic book about learning to find contentment in what you’ve achieved and not comparing it to some unrealistic ideal. In other words, when we get to the top of the mountain, we should celebrate the freaking climb. 

Taking the pressure off myself to achieve the next big thing has been a game changer. Much like redefining success, I no longer feel like I have to be constantly chasing some arbitrary goal. I can be happy with where things are at if I’m happy with where things are at. I can enjoy this moment and the view from the top of the mountain. 

Schedule Your Life Around Joy

Being our own bosses, we control our schedules. I know it may not feel like we do, but that’s often because we’ve let others dictate our calendars. When we take that control back, we can do something amazing: schedule our availability around joy. Rachel talks about creating a joy list for yourself. Maybe it includes lunch with friends or taking a walk through the park. It can be as simple as enjoying a hot cup of coffee or buying fresh flowers. Whatever your list includes, once you have it, the next step is to schedule time around that joy.

After listening to the podcast, I took Rachel’s idea of adding a meeting type to my calendar called “Joy”. Like her, my “Joy” meetings show up in yellow. Now, when I look at my calendar for the week, if there’s no yellow, I know I need to make some changes. 

This may sound simple or even silly, but trust me when I say, it works. Try it this week for yourself. Schedule 15 minutes to do something that brings you joy. See how it feels. If you’re like me, I bet there will be a lot more sunshine on your calendar in the coming weeks.

Podcasts are a great way to gain a new perspective or simply remind yourself of the thing you know deep down but don’t want to say out loud. Whether you need to redefine success for yourself, learn to be content with where you’re at, or schedule your life around joy, these practical tips can help you get unstuck if you’ve been feeling less-than-happy in your practice. Remember, it’s your business. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Build one that supports your well-being and makes you feel proud.

If you want some ideas on how to add more joy to your daily life, check out our post 10 Simple Ways to Add Self-Care to Your Day where I share practical ideas to prioritize your well-being that doesn’t take much effort to implement. Heck, you may even find your first “Joy” calendar event!