Does fear drive your decision-making?
"What's on the other side of fear? Nothing" - Jamie Foxx
You may not know who Jamie Foxx is outside of the great movies you've seen him in. But, dig a little deeper and you will see he is a prolific artist across all mediums. No matter what he tries his hand at, he is amazing. So, what's the key to this type of success and fearlessness?
Fear drives so many of our decisions. Fear of what others will think. Fear of what it will mean financially. Fear of the silly little voice in our head. This voice is our internal lawyer. Always seeking to make things certain. Seeking to mitigate risk, maintain the status quo or caution against trying something different, for fear that you will blow up all the progress you've made.
The little lawyer in your head is always on the lookout to stifle change. Generally speaking, all he or she cares about more status, better work and more money. But, their interests may not align with what you want. This is the struggle we all come up against. Internally, we usually have another voice telling us some home truths about our work and life. It may be that your job doesn't line up with your values. It may be that your inner voice is crying out to do something creative and engaging. It may be telling you that no amount of money will make you happy if you don't have the time to make other areas of your life work optimally.
We are conditioned to think like lawyers from day one of law school. It's inevitable that this type of thinking will seep over into other facets of our lives and how we make decisions. It can become a firmly entrenched identity and difficult to shake off. No matter how loud the internal voice might be, the lawyer in your head will keep things as they are. But, this is not sustainable over the long term. One way or another, if you aren't honest with yourself and proactive about making changes, it will come anyway. Only, you are likely to be forced into it. Remember, the little lawyer doesn't have your best interests at heart. It's only a compilation of all the external voices that have given you "advice" over the years. That's where expectations stem from.
So, when it comes to major career choices, we tend to delay and delay until our reality becomes unbearable. It's a difficult hurdle to overcome. We get it; you have worked hard to get to where you are, how on earth could you leave it all behind? Except, you're not leaving it all behind. You're shifting direction but maintaining continuity. Your legal career and experience, if you play it right, will open new doors for you. The skills you picked up can be re-framed in new roles. You can add to your legal skills by taking your soft skills to the next level. This is all done in a way that sees you pivot your career in a new direction. It takes a little planning but, most importantly, it requires you to get real about what you want out of your career and life. Trust us, we have heard all the excuses in the world around this. But, there is no substitute for taking concrete steps towards making changes. This can only come from you.
We have all heard terrible stories of burnout and mental health issues amongst lawyers. When everything links to the billable hour, work can become an unhappy place. This is especially so if you neglect the other facets of your life. Health, family, friends and passions all seem to take a backseat to the firm, the client and (let's be honest) money. That's a big adjustment to make. Your mental health is a huge thing to sacrifice, so you better be sure this is what you want. That it's not what others expect of you any not what the little lawyer in your head is telling you.
We want to encourage lawyers to be proactive on this point. You don't need to hit rock bottom to make changes, no matter how small or big.