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LAWYER HAPPINESS

Five Ways to Get Back to You

When Everything Is “Fine” but You Feel Lost

By Jamie Spannhake

Reconnecting with yourself is a critical course correction for a frenzied lawyer; the job can get ahead of you. Here’s how to come back.

Sometimes we get busy in life — with work, family, building our business, taking care of others, and on and on. When this happens, we can start going through the motions without even realizing it. Until we wake up one day and think: Who am I? We can lose touch with the person we once were, a person with dreams for the future and ideas for how to have fun!

I’ve been in that place. It can start as a small, uneasy feeling, but we ignore it because something else requires our attention be it a client emergency or a school play. Even when these things are good, when everything is “fine,” we can lose sight of what we really want and like.

If you are feeling a bit lost, or like you’ve forgotten who you are, here are five ways to reconnect with yourself. And they work even if you are too busy or rooted to make big changes.

1. Journal

It can be difficult to journal, in part because sometimes we just don’t have anything to say. We decide to write a page a day, or for 10 minutes, but then sit down and … nothing. As someone who journals regularly, I get it. But I promise that if you start writing, things will come to you more days than not. I have gotten some of my deepest insights on days when I had nothing to say. Journaling provides us with the ability to get beyond our self-censoring and judgment so we can get to the good parts of ourselves.

So how do you get started, especially when nothing is coming to you? First, know that there is no wrong way to journal. If you write, you have done it correctly. Second, get a journal and a pen you like.

When facing a blank page with no ideas, write exactly what’s on your mind. It might be, “I have nothing to say and so I am writing nothing on these stupid pages.” Or I might write a to-do list or a timeline for a matter I’m working on. It doesn’t matter. It helps if you set a page or time limit so you continue to write until you get to the good parts!

2. Spend Time With You

In her book “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path,” Julia Cameron suggests we take some time each week for what she calls an “artist’s date.” The idea is that you spend time every week doing something that inspires you. Whether you think of yourself as an artist or not isn’t the point. Think of this as a “you” date — you are taking yourself on a little date, something special just for you.

It can be just a few minutes enjoying a cappuccino. It could be taking a wine and paint class. It could be reading a novel before bed instead of checking email or reading the news. It can be big or small, from five minutes to all day. You get to decide. It’s for you.

So how do you know what to do on your date with yourself? Journal about what you might enjoy trying or doing. Or think about things you used to enjoy if it’s been a long time since you spent time doing something completely for yourself.

3. Take a Risk

Sometimes we need to spice things up a bit and do something totally out of the ordinary. Trying something new, or doing a regular thing in a different way can give us a different perspective and help us recognize habits that aren’t working for us.

Remember, when you try something new, you don’t have to be good at it. The point of taking the risk is to take the risk — whether you win or lose, you still win because you took the risk. The very act of risking to try something new is enlivening and empowering.

So how to start? Again, it doesn’t have to be something big —though, go for it if you want to try skydiving or scuba diving or something else big! You can journal ideas, or you can make a spontaneous change, even a little one. Do you always drive a certain route to the office or grocery store? Take a different way. Always have the same breakfast at home? Go to your local café one morning instead. Do you always start your day by checking email? Work on your brief or make client calls first. All these things open your mind to a more expansive vision of yourself.

4. Meditate

One of the best ways to reconnect with yourself is to sit with yourself and get grounded so you can think and act, rather than constantly reacting to what’s happening in life. If you’ve had a meditation practice in the past, commit to restarting it. If you’ve never had a meditation practice, start with two minutes of focused breathing every day. Like journaling, if you do it, then you’ve succeeded. Don’t worry about whether you are doing it right.

The simplest way to meditate that I share with clients is counting. Breathe in on one, breathe out on two, breathe in on three, breathe out on four, and so on. Count up to 10, then count back down to one. If you take deep breaths, this technique takes about two minutes. Your only goal is to sit still, focus on your breath, and count.

There are lots of free resources available for meditation. You can use my free one-page guide or use a free app like Insight Timer.

5. Mine the past

I sometimes hear from clients that they don’t know what they like anymore. They have been focusing on getting everything done for everyone else —bosses, clients, kids, partners — and they’ve lost themselves. They know they used to be interesting people who had fun, but they can’t remember what that person was like!

Think about what you were like when you were in elementary school, middle school and high school: What did you like to do for fun? What have been some of your favorite places to travel and why? If you could go back in time to being 21 years old, what would you do that you didn’t do then?

This is another great tool for journaling. If you’d like more prompts to get you thinking, check out my Thought Book or come up with your own list of questions to answer.

When you take the time to reflect and take action using these five tools, you’ll find that you can reconnect with yourself and get back to you.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

Have You Read Jamie Spannhake’s Bestselling Book?

The Lawyer, the Lion, and the Laundry Book CoverFind Your Calm in the Chaos

In “The Lawyer, the Lion, and the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your Calm in the Chaos,” lawyer and certified health coach Jamie Spannhake helps you learn how to CHOOSE, ACT and THINK in ways that will clarify your desires and set priorities so you can reclaim your time and enjoy your life.

Available in the Attorney at Work bookstore, here. 

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Jamie Spannhake

Jamie Jackson Spannhake is a writer, coach for lawyers, and speaker. She helps busy lawyers create lives they truly want, lives with time and space to do all the things she was told she couldn’t do as a successful lawyer. Her work with clients is based upon the principles in her book, “The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry.” She spent nearly 20 years practicing law in New York and Connecticut, in BigLaw, as a solo, and as a partner in a small firm. Learn more about her at JamieSpannhake.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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