I have a confession. I have been overdoing it again, running a law practice and this emerging blog on top of it, while working behind-the-scenes on some website changes and enduring some time zone changes. My days got too long and I felt frazzled, as I tried to fill every waking moment with productive activity. I had to take a short break from posting.
It made me re-examine my basic orientation to work, identity and time. So, I'm back to talk about it with you.
Like me, do you feel pressure to “have, do and be?" This is common spiritual abundance teaching, but what’s the drawback to this question? For those of us who are lawyers or are in other demanding careers, this question can bring a rush of internal pressure to have more, do more, and be more -- with no free time to get it all crossed off the list.
One thing common to almost all lawyers, even if they’re not conscious of this, is the internal pressure within them to “have, do and be.” Some want big houses full of stuff. Some want to be thought of as talented and hard workers. Some want to “be” somebody, to have a certain amount of prestige. All of these are identities formed of externals, even if a sincere desire to make something meaningful with oneself is at the core. Law is one of those "identity" careers, where for many, the motivation to practice law is to "be" a lawyer.
Even spirituality drives this home – to manifest a desire, make lists of what you want to have, do and be. Write affirmations, visualize the achievement of your desire, and get into the feeling place. I personally love doing that -- regularly. There are very good teachers of these methods, and excellent processes. Pick any one with integrity, and apply your intention, and you will see some results.
I challenge you to ask, however, what would it be like if you didn’t have any strong desires to have, do, or be anything in particular? How would you use your time?
Suppose you achieved financial independence and no longer had to work for money, but still practiced law or ran your business. How would it change the way you work? Would disentangling your work from the need to earn money from it change the kinds of cases or clients you take?
I have met several women, all younger than I am, who achieved financial independence and no longer have to work for a living. Instead of lazing around, these women are all extremely productive with entrepreneurial activities and passion projects. And no, they're not jumping around on Instagram in their bikinis to make their first million. They each went about their goal in different ways, but what I have observed is common to them is that their personal freedom and sense of security was not ensnared in an identity career, or if it was at any point, they managed to find a stronger identity within themselves so that they could get the big picture stuff dialed in.
Lawyers are often strapped for time, and crave more time, and fantasize about the weekend, the vacation, or the "someday" retirement. But the most successful lawyers I know realize that they are the owners of their time, and may choose how to spend it. Now, not "someday." It's not easy and takes a bit of mental jujitsu, especially when the caseload gets busy, but it's freeing. And, it is true.
You are the owner of your time.
What if you achieved financial independence and, in an imaginary world, were not permitted to work? Could you fill your time in ways that made you nonetheless feel productive? Would you have the need to be “productive” at something? Why?
And what if you achieved financial independence, and in an imaginary world, were not permitted to use your job title as your identity? Imagine you are sitting next to a stranger on a plane. You are not allowed to say, “I am a ____” when talking about how you spend your time. Would you know what to say?
I advocate for prosperity and manifesting approaches as much as anyone. I’m deeply American, and always want to strive for the next thing. But I do like to challenge myself to turn my own go-getter impulses on their ear from time to time, for a bit of healthy detachment.
The most powerful place to be of service is that place where your own real needs are already completely met. And for most of you reading this blog, I bet that is true for you as you stand here today. It is true for me. Sometimes we all need reminding that practicing law is something we do, and is not our complete identity, and that our time belongs to us ultimately, not our job.
I'd love to hear from you about your relationship to work, time, and career "identity." What would you do if you had more time? What would it take for you to have a greater sense of ownership of your time right now? Why do you work? What are the deeper reasons?