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6 Things That Can Make a Happy Lawyer

What makes a happy lawyer? Its a question many lawyers probably ask themselves equally many times, but for a university lecturer at Duke University who teaches on well being and related issues he believes a happy lawyer conforms to certain standards.

Dan Bowling, who also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, provides six ways that lawyers can make the choice to be happy in a blog post at The Careerist:

1. Look at the Big Picture. Bad grade? Itʼs okay. Didnʼt make partner? Nobody will remember when youʼre dead. The universe doesnʼt revolve around you and your worries. Happy lawyers have perspective; they take a long view of life, and donʼt obsess over every short term setback or problem.

2. Laugh. Humor is considered by moral philosophers to be a classical virtue, a universal human good. So why do so many law firms seem like morgues? Come on, Bartleby the Scrivener, lighten up, laugh, chill a bit—it will enhance not just your mood but also that of the people around you. Savor those moments of laughter and the positive emotions they generate and carry them around with you throughout the day.

3. Learn Optimism. A general bias toward optimism is a trait most happy people share. Unfortunately, many humans—and a majority of lawyers, according to some studies—arenʼt genetically programmed that way. To make matters worse, in law school lawyers are trained to avoid optimistic thinking. The problem is when a critical job skill morphs into a chronic pessimism that negatively infects all aspects of life. Happy lawyers develop a habit of mind of looking for realistic, positive outcomes to bad situations. The positive explanatory style at the base of optimism isnʼt easy to learn, but It can be done. I suggest reading my friend and mentor Martin Seligmanʼs seminal work Learned Optimism (1990), as a start.

4. Avoid overload. Stop. Log off Instagram and quit posting pictures of your dachshund on Facebook. F-O-C-U-S on this page. Stop worshiping at the altar of multitasking; all you are doing is encouraging your brain to jump around from unconnected thought to unconnected thought. And you’re dumping a truck load of stress on yourself. Happy lawyers can focus for long periods of time—not just on work, but on family and friends.

5. Keep moving. We are descended from the monkey, not the cow, as Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang reminds us. It is in our DNA to keep physically moving, not stand and graze. Law practice is an activity of little physical movement, so you have to look for opportunities to get up during the day, to walk around, to take some work outside (ok, keep billing). It will reduce stress and give you an emotional boost during a dreary day.

6. Develop Relationships. The late Chris Peterson was one of the most prominent research psychologists of this century. When asked for the secret to happiness, he had a simple answer: “Other people matter.” Scores of studies show the importance of positive relationships to overall well-being.

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