Do Lawyers Love Being Miserable?
June 28, 2012
3.6 Times More Miserable, to Be Exact!
Have you ever noticed when you hang out with other lawyers that there seems to be a lot of complaining? For a long time, I thought complaining was what we as lawyers are supposed to do when we get together.
Now, I am not so sure. I suspect it may be part of a syndrome. Thanks to my new favorite book, I have evidence to support my theory.
My new favorite book that I am handing out to all of my coaching clients is The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. It is fantastic.
In the book, Achor works with the premise that being happy is actually an advantage. My soon to be 12-year-old daughter provided her thought “Duh, Dad, of course.”
But, I don’t think anyone actively develops habits or works to cultivate happiness. Most lawyers I know appear to be working to avoid happiness. It’s as if misery is some form of strange merit badge that your bar associations hand out.
Test my theory, write down 10 lawyers you know, and rate what you perceive their happiness level to be in your eyes. Rank them from 1 for miserable to 10 for euphoric. Take a look at that that list afterward and really think about it.
Achor says lawyers “are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from major depressive disorders than the rest of the employed population.” (page 92)
Achor says there are many factors that contribute to it. The book cites a study that supports the theory that our major “happiness” issue as lawyers is stems from our training. In law school, we are conditioned to be critical thinkers in our profession. But the problem with many of us is that we also use that critical analysis in our personal life.
According to the study, we “start to overestimate the significance and permanence of problems” we encounter in a our day to day life. What makes us great at helping clients is this critical thinking skill.
And yet, this “fault finding” mind set also makes us more susceptible to depression, stress, poor physical health and substance abuse. What makes us miserable is that we are applying the same critical thinking to our personal life to accumulate evidence why we should not be happy.
I think any time you use the word “should” it implies an ideal. A level of perfection that does not actually exist. But, that is for another day.
Read The Happiness Advantage. Do it now. It is a great book. I have enjoyed it and have been applying some of its principles to my life.
I would say that you will be happy if you did, too. But if you are like most of my attorney friends, there is only so much happiness you can tolerate.
If you read it and start to apply the guidance in it, let me know what happens for you.