Ed. note: Please welcome Elizabeth Adams, who will be covering health and wellness in the legal profession. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.
Ever wonder what the secret to happiness is? Landing a Biglaw job? Making partner? Saving your innocent cousin from wrongful conviction for a convenience store robbery in the small town south? Whether you’re a currently-miserable attorney who’s pinning her hopes for happiness on eventual career success, or a veteran attorney who could stand to be a bit more happy, I have both bad and good news for you. The bad news: you may have to look beyond the bounds of your career for the additional keys to lasting happiness. The good news: doing so is easy! But how could this be, you ask?
I found some clues to the answer in a book I just finished reading called A Life Worth Breathing (affiliate link), written by Julian Assange doppelganger (see cover photo), yoga teacher, and self-proclaimed “innovator,” Max Strom. To be honest, I was initially pretty skeptical of the book. From the title alone, I could tell how much heavy eye-rolling was likely in store for me. And — just to be clear — the book did prove chock-full of more than its fair share of what my father would call “illogically formulated and poorly communicated hippie hooey.”
That said, A Life Worth Breathing did deliver a few precious nuggets of information valuable enough to make the whole undertaking worthwhile…
Indeed, Strom’s best insights completely altered — for the better — my approach to pursuing happiness. According to Strom, attaining happiness is pretty simple and boils down to nurturing just three aspects of your life: the intellectual mind, the physical body, and the creative spirit. In Strom’s words, these are “the three pillars of transformation.”
Strom’s three pillars may explain — at least in part — why many lawyers at all levels of success remain less happy than they otherwise could be. While most lawyers have the first pillar — intellectual pursuits — pretty well covered, they altogether forget about the other two. This, it turns out, is a big mistake.
It isn’t necessarily the case that anything about being a lawyer is fundamentally in conflict with the ability to nurture one’s physical body and creative spirit. But it is the case that being a lawyer tends to take up a lot of time. Thankfully, a shortage of time doesn’t necessarily need to stand in the way of a properly nurtured body and creative spirit. What follows are a few ways you can satisfy all three of Strom’s pillars, despite your busy schedule.
- First, when it comes to nurturing your physical body, this means that you need to eat well and get a moderate amount of exercise. Even if you are too busy to make it to the gym during the week, there are things you can do during your workday that nurture your body. For example, you can try doing leg lifts or arm dips at your desk, or you could take a walk at lunch or walk laps around your office. If you’re worried about attracting attention with this last option, you may consider grabbing a pen and notepad to take with you on your laps. Also, be sure to walk briskly with a sense of urgency. In my experience, I have found that people won’t bother me if I look like I mean business, even if I have passed by their office over 30 times. But nurture isn’t limited to diet and exercise. Treat yourself to a massage once in awhile. You’re worth it!
- Second, although the creativity pillar sounds daunting, it really isn’t. Assuming you haven’t done anything intentionally creative since your childhood, I suggest starting where you left off: get a fresh new box of Crayola crayons and some colored construction paper, and draw pictures of your parents. Hopefully, your artistic skills will have improved since you were seven, but if not, you can always display your art in your office and tell people your kid made it. Either way, this exercise won’t require more than a few minutes out of your busy day. And as long as no one catches you doing it, you could even squeeze it into your lunch break. Alternatively, if you prefer a more dignified type of creativity, you may consider taking a few minutes at night to write in a journal or even start a blog. Whatever you decide to do, don’t focus so much on the quality of your work so much as the quantity. As long as you maintain a small amount of creativity in your life, you will be well on your way to attaining happiness.
So, take this opportunity to do an accounting of your pillars. Have you been paying each one an adequate amount of attention? If not, try Strom’s pillars on for size and see if they don’t improve your sense of happiness, even just a little. They certainly have for me, and I bet they will for you, too.
Elizabeth Adams (not her real name) is a recent law school graduate, former federal judicial clerk, and aspiring health guru. She currently practices insurance coverage litigation at a mid-sized law firm. When she isn’t sitting at a desk — which isn’t very often — she is following her bliss. At the moment, this mainly involves working toward becoming a certified yoga teacher. Elizabeth’s column focuses on exploring how and whether lawyers can achieve a sustainable work-life balance. She can be reached at email@example.com.