Are you placing too much emphasis on professional achievement in order to derive your own self esteem. That’s a diagnosis offered in today’s WSJ (subscription req.)
While there is nothing wrong with striving for high levels of achievement (and as any parent knows, achievement is the cornerstone of self esteem), the problem arises when professional achievement becomes your principal source of self esteem. In the current economic climate, it is NOT easy to achieve professional success in the short run. You are therefore not being fair to yourself if your self worth is being measured by the money you have in the bank right now.
If you haven’t been laid off, your workload may be slow. If you are responsible for generating work at your firm, you are probably finding it harder to generate billings (unless you happen to be involved in providing legal services that relate in some way to advising distressed companies or individuals).
In the long run, I think the current economic crisis will force more lawyers to reevaluate their priorities (e.g. why did I go to law school? what do I really want to do with my life? how can I use the added free time to improve my relationships with my friends, children, spouse and family?)
Personally, I’ve rediscovered cooking and my wife and I are eating better. I spend more time with our children, our dog gets more exercise, I’m following up with old friends more frequently and I’m taking care of little annoying car and house related projects that have been on the back burner for a long time.
It’s not that I’m not working hard (in many ways, I’m focusing more energy than ever on identifying business opportunities). But I’m trying to focus more on other parts of my life to derive self esteem.
So what are you doing to build self esteem during these challenging times? Hint: focus on areas of your life where you have more control! If you do focus on the professional, reward yourself for being successful at networking and don’t be too hard on yourself when clients are not ready to spend their legal dollars.