When you think about it objectively, it’s not surprising that so many within the legal profession are impacted by burnout, anxiety, depression and alcohol & substance abuse problems. There’s the joke that “to be a lawyer you need a balance of perfectionism and pessimism” … And in order for a joke to be funny, it needs to have a foundation in, or be rooted in the truth.

Recent research show mental well-being is a real area of concern for the legal profession here in the US. Not only is this a problem affecting the US profession, but there is growing concern across the pond, and internationally, which suggests that many lawyers are “surviving” but not thriving.  

In this 2 part series, I look at some a common mindset challenges I have seen in the legal profession, and outline tools and techniques to reframe these mindsets.

The “Success Junkie” Mindset

Ambition Leads to “Success Chasing”

The legal profession attracts ambitious personalities, and the competitive culture of much of the legal profession leads to a culture of “success junkies”.  

As a former lawyer in my early career, like many of us, I worked long days. I was moving from promotion to promotion, always chasing that next success, but at the same time I was putting pressure on myself to succeed, to achieve that next goal, don’t miss out. By 29 I was the youngest person to be offered partnership in my firm but, I didn’t savor that success. My goal posts constantly changed. I was a “success junkie”. I didn’t value joy in the journey. My happiness was attached to achieving that goal.

And, while this ambition and goal-getting mindset can certainly propel you forward, you have to consider at what cost?

When you have a tendency towards being a success chaser, you lose focus on where true happiness lies and you forget to savor the small stuff.

So many of us go through life with the belief “if I could just get XYZ” I will be happy.

“Get that promotion”

“Get that pay-rise”

We believe that happiness is at the other-side of your goal.

The “success leads to happiness” myth is one of the main reasons so many people are miserable and unfulfilled. When you attach your happiness to a goal, person or outcome, you are likely to be disappointed. True happiness lies in deriving joy from the journey of life.

Personal happiness should not be linked to one particular area of life, in isolation. When you focus purely on your career, other areas of your life become out of balance. In order to be happy and fulfilled, your life should contain fulfilment in a range of areas; for example:

  • Relationships (social, intimate, family)
  • Career
  • Finances
  • Personal Development & Growth
  • Fun
  • Spirituality

How to Shake “Success Chasing”

Having goals are great and propel us forward, but, try to dig deep & remember your motivation.

  • Why did you get started?
  • Why are you a lawyer?
  • Why are you going after this goal?
  • What else is important in your life?
  • Do you have fun outside of work?
  • Are you making time for travel, for family, for friends?
  • What are you grateful in your life for? Right now?

Think of your life as a pie, made-up of multiple slices, using the list above.

Rank each area 1-10.  If any one area is out of balance.

This is a really great indicator for an area to explore more deeply.

In the second part of this series, I will cover perfectionism, and how the legal profession attracts perfectionists.

Being a perfectionist, can in many instances propel you forward, but have you considered its pitfalls?

For more information on how I can help overcome burnout, visit www.charlotte-smith.com