Review Your Life and Your Law Practice
If you are still having trouble coming up with an answer, first try taking a look at the various areas of your life and practice.
- Am I making a comfortable living?
- Do I like going to work each day?
- Do I feel anxious at work frequently?
- Do I like the culture of my office?
- Do I ever have to take an action that I find unethical?
- Do I like my co-workers?
- Do I feel that I am asked to handle more work than I am capable of?
- Do I have the proper support in my practice?
- Is there any additional equipment that would make my life easier?
- Do I constantly think I would like to be doing something else?
- If a magic genie appeared and could grant me one wish, what would that be?
- Am I happy with my living situation?
- Would I like to change or add to my surroundings?
- Do I want to lose weight?
- Do I want to stop doing something?
- Do I want a healthier lifestyle?
- Do I want to exercise more? Or at all?
- Do I want to change or add to my wardrobe?
- Am I happy with the friends I have chosen?
- Do I want to be with my friends or family more?
- Do I want to be closer to my partner? My children?
- Do I want more spirituality in my life?
- Do I want to play a sport?
- Do I want to visit a new place?
- Do I want to make a bucket list?
- Do I want to get to know someone I admire?
- Is there something holding me back from my best self?
- Do I want to stop smoking? Drinking?
These are just a few questions to ask yourself to get your “little grey cells” to work. Nine times out of ten, you will be able to locate a change, big or small, you want in your life by asking the right question.
Determine How to Achieve This Change
So, now you’ve landed on one item that you would like to change in your life. To begin, write it down and post it on your bathroom mirror. Next, decide if it involves a major or minor change. A major change would be a very large increase in income, whereas a minor change might be to find 20 minutes a day to rest or meditate. It is obvious that the major change is going to take substantially more planning and time than the minor change. However, you can start the path to making either type of change by following a couple of simple suggestions.
The path to an easy change begins by letting go of the thought that you can’t do it or that it would be too difficult. Once you have convinced yourself that you can undertake this task, the next step is to decide how you will adapt your behavior to produce the result you want. This usually involves getting your friends to help. Choose a positive friend to communicate your misgivings and plans. Research others who have altered their behavior and had a good result. Look back over your life and take account of other tasks in which you have succeeded. Now, you will need a plan of action. Simple actions such as putting a “Do Not Disturb Sign” on your door or taking a 20-minute outside break may be enough to get a minor task completed. If guilt creeps in, even with minor tasks, you will have to acknowledge it and find a solution.
Taking on a major change may require much more effort to accomplish, but it involves the same steps. First, you need to build your confidence. You need to believe you can do it. Today, “confidence” is frequently discussed in terms of “self-efficacy.” Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.
If you want to delve more deeply into this, examine the work of Albert Bandura, the father of self-efficacy. Bandura was a Stanford professor who, in 1977, published an article in Psychology Review entitled “Self-Efficacy: Towards a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change.” He passed away in 2021 at the age of 95, but he left a legacy of brilliant understanding and insight into the concept of confidence.
And, as with a minor task, undertaking a major task also requires support from your “community.” That includes your family, partner, friends, and colleagues.
It is self-evident that achieving a major change necessitates much more careful planning than making a minor change. Planning to substantially increase your income, for example, could include determining exactly how much of an increase is needed and what would be a reasonable time frame to achieve this increase. Next would come breaking down the task into specific, written goals with completion dates. The biggest question in this example remains, “Where is this increase in income going to come from?” At this point, assistance from a third, neutral party, such as a coach, is helpful.
You now have an insight into how to successfully identify your wish and create a plan of action. Read on if your curiosity has been spiked.
What Does Change Really Entail?
This would be a great opportunity to talk about change. Since much or all of my coaching business involves change, I have been able to indulge myself. I attended an all-day conference on the latest information based on the work of Gerard J. Connors (see below) about how to facilitate change. I followed up with an Institute for Brain Potential course by Kateri McRae, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver, entitled “How People Change Their Minds to Adopt Healthful Habits.” I have attempted to condense their concepts here and adapt them to be more in alignment with help for lawyers.
For years, the medical and psychological professions have been trying to find a way to influence people to change their destructive behavior. Most of the research and findings related to this subject have come out of the field of drug and alcohol addiction therapy. There, helping people change is imperative to save lives. However, some of the findings of this research are applicable to helping people make smaller changes that are not literally a matter of life and death.
In the book Substance Abuse Treatment and the Stages of Change: Selecting and Planning Interventions (Gerard J. Connors et al., 2d ed. 2013), the authors identify five stages of addiction recovery through which a person must progress in order to truly change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
The first stage, precontemplation, simply involves admitting that a change needs to be made—for example, “I need to stop drinking so much.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an intention to take any real action. And even getting to this stage might involve working through denial. The next stage, contemplation, involves considering how recovery might take place. At this stage, suggestions and support for change can be helpful but won’t produce grand change.
If the person can move into preparation, then ideas can be introduced that include treatment. Once the person is at least semi-convinced that treatment might be a good solution to his or her suffering, then the support community can help move the person to action. This usually includes a written and often signed plan.
Of course, maintenance is then key to making the change long-lasting. The idea here is to monitor change to make sure it stays strong. With addiction, there might be relapses that must be dealt with; the support community must then provide encouragement to get the person back on track as soon as possible.
Can you apply these concepts to a non-life-threatening issue you want to change? If you want a little test, try taking something in your past that proved a challenge to change. How about losing ten pounds? That sounds easy, but the scale shows a higher BMI than you have wanted for the past year. So, at this stage, you are in precontemplation because you are not doing anything about it. Then, one day, you can’t get into your favorite jeans, and you move into true contemplation: “I must do something about this.”
Nothing more happens until you catch yourself in a recent photograph and the weight gain is visible. This forces you into preparation. A quick Google search will give you the latest information about how to lose that ten pounds. However, for the next stage, action, you will need some help being held accountable. Once you reach that stage and have figured out how to be held to your action plan, you are on the road to maintenance. Maybe the same accountability tools that worked during the action stage can be modified to keep you from regaining those ten pounds? How about weighing every morning? That worked for me, and I avoided knee surgery five years ago!
These concepts also hint at the process your clients might have to go through to make changes. You can also use these concepts to gauge how difficult the change will be for them. And you might now have some idea of how you could be of help to them. If you want to find out further information, check out Connors’s research as well as the Institute for Brain Potential. They have lots of classes (but, sadly, attorneys cannot get CLE credit there).
I hope by now I have encouraged you to give yourself a suggestion of one change that will make your life better. What you do with that new insight is now up to you.