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Getting into the ‘flow’ of lawyering

Anyone who knows me in real life knows I’m very interested in the happiness of lawyers. In other words, the lack of happiness of lawyers.

At church recently, I heard that depression and anxiety has increased from approximately 11% to 31% of the U.S. population. (That statistic is secondhand or thirdhand hearsay, so don’t quote me.) But the point is people are struggling, and I suspect the statistic for lawyers is even worse.

Our profession is fraught with triggers for most people’s anxiety. Many people depend on you, and we have constant interactions with people who are not functioning at their best, most likely because of whatever problem they’re calling us about.

I’ve been reading an interesting book, “Flow,” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In it he talks about complicated scientific research, mostly about the brain, and it’s pretty dense. I’m not going to try and summarize it here. However, as it relates to the purpose of this article, we need to find joy in the work.  That’s what will get us by.

One way to do that is to be sure that we have autonomy or control over our work and have a “perfect fit” of challenges. If the challenges are too steep, we have too much stress and unhappiness. If the work is too easy, we are bored and not stimulated. The trick is finding the in between where we are challenged just enough that we feel great after the work is done. Not necessarily during, but after.

The most “flow” occurs during those times, and in such a state we stop worrying about the passage of time or about leaving the office as soon as possible, and we stop worrying about protecting the “self.” We are fully immersed.

So, if you are trying to find more joy in lawyering, I suggest you look for these moments.  When do you lose track of time? When do you feel invigorated? Do those things more, and the other things less.