It’s easy to make excuses for not practicing law within a wellness lifestyle. For starters, it isn’t an easy thing to do. It requires a significant amount of self-discipline, planning, dedication, and commitment. Practicing law seems to suck up the vast majority of your time, and often there’s not a whole lot left over to invest in health, and friends, and family, and community, and so on. It’s not that we’re bad people; it’s not that we don’t want to be healthy, and happy, and fulfilled across the spectrum of our lives. It’s just that we’re so damn busy all the time.
But if you DO want to experience enhanced health, happiness, fulfillment, and career success, here’s some great news for you. Contrary to popular belief, lawyers are perfectly positioned to successfully and sustainably adopt the wellness lifestyle required to experience lasting health, happiness, and fulfillment. The reason? Because two of the essential skills that you use every day in your law practice are the same two skills that are at the foundation of a wellness lifestyle: consciousness and integrity.
Consciousness means awareness of a particular issue and of your surroundings. When applied to wellness, consciousness means actively steering your life in the direction in which you choose. It’s choosing to live your life by design rather than by default. It requires identifying all of the areas of your life that are important to you and figuring out what would constitute success, for you, in each area.
Consciousness requires thinking and paying attention. These are things you do all day at work, but as a group we don’t do as well away from the office. There may be lots of good reasons for this, not the least of which is that you may want a break from thinking when you transition into your personal life after using your brain in a concerted way for hours on end at work every day.
But if you want sustained health, happiness and fulfillment in your life then you simply can’t afford to stop thinking when you’re not on the clock. You need to bring the same level of thinking and consciousness to your whole life as you bring to the practice of law. You need to sit down and think logically about the life you are leading, to think through what you want in each important area of your life, and to apply values–based decision making to your daily life. If you fail to do these things, you will you continue to be in the clutches of one or more of the 3 Uns (unhealthy, unhappy, unfulfilled) in a sustained manner.
Integrity is revealed when your actions and choices are congruent with your vision and values. In other words, integrity is doing what you say you’re going to do.
Our ethical obligations as lawyers compel us to act with integrity professionally—to do what we say we’re going to do. Lawyers who have incongruence between their professional words and actions don’t last very long in this business—at best they gain a sullied reputation, and at worst they get disbarred. Yet while most lawyers are clear on how integrity impacts their law practice, many fail to fully appreciate the foundational role integrity plays in the rest of their lives. Lack of congruence in your life is a massive destroyer of wellness, because it leads to energy leakage and stress.
The tricky thing about integrity is that most incongruence in our lives is subconscious—we aren’t even aware of its existence. For example, you may have identified health as a top core value, as one of the most important areas of your life. “I deeply value my health,” you might say. But do your actions support that? Do you DO the things that are congruent with valuing your health? Do you exercise, eat well, get enough rest, manage your professional stress, and limit other negative stressors in your life? If you don’t, then you have a massive incongruence in your life—a lack of integrity—that erodes your health big time.
In essence, practicing law within a wellness lifestyle means living in congruence with consciously identified values. Living with consciousness and integrity is energy-producing, stress-reducing, and health-promoting. Conversely, lack of consciousness and integrity negatively impacts the degree of health, happiness, and fulfillment that you experience in your life. The choice is yours to make.