It is easy to find a message from somewhere in our culture celebrating “being different”.
Celebrities and star athletes and politicians all interest us because of their public uniqueness. At a high level, we shower praise on those courageous enough to go for their dream, to fight back for what is right, to do what they love, to make good money, to stand out, to act crazy, to speak their mind, to say what we only think, to break barriers, to fight the system, to drop out of school or the rat race, to do the unthinkable, to be funny or coarse, to push boundaries, to be eccentric, to be themselves.
Be the same
But at our level, our day-to-day, in-the-grind, working-as-an-attorney level, we are often conditioned to be “the same”. To blend in. To think like all the others.
This programming can come from our upbringing. Or from our schooling. Or specifically from law school. Or from the other attorneys we work with and around.
But since we are unhappy attorneys, we are different. We feel different.
We feel unfulfilled practicing the law. We want to do something else. We want more out of life.
We don’t align with what it takes to be a partner. We don’t feel much or any connection with our clients. We don’t feel we are tapping into our skills and strengths.
But we keep it quiet. Even though we think and feel differently, we keep doing the same because … well … just because.
Because that’s what you just do. Because we don’t know what else is there to do. Because if we don’t do what we’re told … we could be fired, we could lose our job, we could not have money to pay the bills, we could lose this identity and stature as an attorney we’ve worked so hard to create.
We are free to choose our own beliefs
To break free of this cycle, we first need to realize one thing: many of those forces guiding us to be the same (parents, teachers, bosses, clergy, electeds, advertisers) subscribe to the belief system that they themselves shouldn’t be different. They (parents, teachers, bosses, clergy, electeds, advertisers) don’t have their own courage or self-confidence or creativity to be different, so they assume neither should we.
Just because “they” are afraid of being different, doesn’t mean we need to be.
But this is hard for many of us to imagine, as risk averse as we attorneys can be.
The good news is that being different doesn’t mean anything drastic. It doesn’t mean we have to stand out, or be high profile, or change our appearance or be obnoxiously different or impulsive or irresponsible or offensive.
It does mean that we gain a positive comfort level in being, feeling or thinking differently. We will no longer feel lonely or strange or like an outcast or weird for wanting to leave the law. We can begin to not feel guilty for looking at the world in a different way. It means gaining a comfort level that we are free to choose our own beliefs.
To help you, here are some new beliefs to try out:
- I don’t need to think the same way everyone else does
- Being a lawyer doesn’t fully define me
- My law school debt doesn’t define me
- Leaving the law doesn’t need to be hard
- Happiness can be a state of mind
- I don’t need something (partnership, more money, social approval) to be happy
- I provide value
- Everything is working out
- Bigger or more doesn’t necessarily mean better
- Stature doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve made it
- I don’t need to believe the news
- I am firmly on my path
- I can be comfortable with the unknown
- I, and my life and my work, do not need to be perfect
- I look forward to the learning I’ll get from making mistakes
- I am thankful for what I have and eager for what is coming to me
- There is a whole new “non-law” world out there that I’m excited to learn about
I have changed my belief system using these same steps. Admittedly it can feel lonely, because I am not always thinking the same way as so many other people around me. I often times feel that only a few people can sincerely understand me. There are only a few people who I feel I can go to for authentic guidance.
But I can’t go back to the other way of thinking: The excitement of aligning with different beliefs outweighs the loneliness of having to create new ones.
You don’t need to be alone any more. I’m creating a monthly training program to bring our tribe together and help us all support each other in leaving the law. And it’s very affordable, with direct access to me. More to come soon.