Recently I put together a survey for readers to answer a few questions. I wanted to get an idea of what’s top of mind for all of us, what types of issues we’re dealing with, and what new products or services we all thought might be best for us all. You can see the survey here.
One thing that comes up a lot is frustration: Feelings of lost potential. A perceived disconnect between who we are and who we want to be. Dissatisfaction with our job. Lack of meaning in what we do. A feeling that our JD is not transferrable to any other industry.
And many other issues: Money is tight. We have family pressures. We don’t know exactly what to do. We’re at a stalemate. We don’t have the time to explore anything else. We feel guilty for wanting to explore something else. We feel like we’re going crazy.
It doesn’t look good.
But it is.
What if life is rigged in our favor?
There is a great blog I follow. It’s called the Daily Love, by Mastin Kipp. He’s not a lawyer, but he’s turned his life around after some low, hard, depressing times and now runs a positive, inspirational blog and community that has been featured on Oprah.
This past week he posted a video that resonated with me. In it, he talks about how when we’re facing challenges, what if we looked at life as not being against us, but rather working for us.
What if life is happening for us, rather than just to us?
What if life is rigged in our favor?
What if some of the challenges we face are actually lessons for us? he asks.
Sure, I know, we’ve heard it all before, the best lessons come out of difficult times. Think positive. Look at the bright side. Yeah yeah, yeah.
And I know it’s hard to think in a positive way when we’re unhappy, depressed, physically ill, or worrying about money. We just want to scream out “why me?” or “poor me” or “why did this happen?” or “how did I get here?”
But run with me on this: This is more than just trying to think positively. This is about taking a leap, taking a break from dwelling on the bad stuff for a second, and trying to think about how the bad stuff might actually be trying to tell us something. To do this, we need to shift our mindset. We need to think differently.
What if all of the bad stuff that is happening to us is for us, and not just to us? What if our viewpoint of life is our choice? What if we can be more proactive and in control? What if life just isn’t happening to us? What if we have more control than we think?
What is the lesson we could possibly learn from all of this bad stuff we’re feeling?
1. These hard times are here to tell us who we really are. Readers also write in the survey questions that they have so many interests beyond work. They talk of how they have an inherent creativity and passion and skills that they are not using as a lawyer, that they want to use more in their life or in another job that will appreciate and optimize what they are good at. They write about how they seem to have lost a sense of who they are.
Maybe these hard times, these real down, depressing hard times, are in our lives to remind us that we have a true self. That our true self can only come out in another job, in another routine, in another environment.
Maybe we’ve lost ourselves. That’s okay. This is the time to re-find who we are.
2. These hard times are here to tell us that there is more to a job than security and stability. Let’s be honest, many of us went to law school and became a lawyer in order to make money. In order to gain some sort of stability. In order to do what we thought was the right thing to do.
And we all need to make money. But maybe these hard times are here to remind us that we can make money in a collaborative environment. We can make money in a job that values us. We can make money in a job that is exciting. We can make money in a job that we don’t even yet know exists … and is passion filled and full of growth and full of meaning.
And this job will take a while to find. It’ll take work to identify. But maybe these hard times, these real down, depressing hard times, are in our lives to remind us that there are jobs out there where money and meaning are not mutually exclusive.
3. These hard times are here to tell us that we have courage and awareness. Leaving the law is all about baby steps. You can’t do it in one big leap. Not possible.
It’s done incremental step after incremental step. It’s done confidence building step by confidence building step. It’s done momentum building step by momentum building step.
And through all of this movement we gain courage. We begin to know more and more that we can do greater and greater things.
And we begin to understand that failure isn’t that bad. When you take small steps, your failures are small. You can easily get back up.
And we gain awareness. Self awareness. We begin to see ourselves again and we begin to like what we see.
And through this all, we become honest with ourselves.
And this is helpful, as it can be really hard to admit that going to law school might have been a mistake. It’s hard to stomach the money and time we might have wasted. It’s hard to think we are disconnected from our true self. It’s hard to feel we’re behind the curve. It’s hard to imagine how we can create another professional identity. It’s hard to think of how we can make more money than we do now.
Maybe these hard times, these real down, depressing hard times, are in our lives to remind us that admitting these feelings is just us becoming more and more honest with ourselves. And aware. And courageous. And necessary.
So as tough as it can be to admit that our lives just aren’t fully right, what if we view this hard realization ironically as a reminder that we’re poised for great stuff ahead? What if these down feelings are not harbingers of disaster but rather indications of success?
What if we thought this way?
Let’s take this survey again.