Happy While Working?

I believe that people should look forward to going to work–the proverbial “whistle while you work” of the Disney song from Snow White! This differs from the concept of work-life balance which implies to me that you can be miserable at work providing your are finding happy moments while not working.  To obtain peak performance in your work, the science shows that it is important to focus on your mood and stress factors and your work habits.

The following contains an excerpt from Harrison Barnes, You Need to Enjoy What You Are Doing, available on his blog at  www.hb.org (Jul 19, 2016). 

One of the greatest lessons you can ever learn is that you shouldn’t be doing anything you don’t enjoy. You should enjoy getting up for your job each day. You should like the work you do and be so interested in it you think about it at night. You should like the people around you and should never do anything you don’t truly love and enjoy. There is nothing wrong with suffering though certain classes when you’re in school and there’s nothing wrong with doing certain types of grunt work; however, you really shouldn’t be doing something you do not enjoy.”  He continues by stating that “regardless of how stupid you think what you enjoy doing is, the chances are you can make a very good living doing it if you really get passionate about it.”

I don’t believe anyone, especially professionals, need to be passionate about the tasks and duties of their day, all the time. This is especially true of lawyers where so much time is routine or spend on procedural or administrative matters.  Lawyers, however, need to be engaged with the tasks and recognize that the micro tasks move the macro goals forward to the benefit of the clients or the public. 

What is a reasonable goal for the amount of a lawyer’s workweek they should expect to feel happy, content or satisfied?

Finding Calm When Integrating Work and Life

My concern is that lawyers and other professionals are being unintentionally misled by the pursuit of work-life balance as the solution to professional dissatisfaction and discontent.  Work can be structured to be engaging and performed with excellence while experiencing satisfaction and contentment.

Clarissa Rayward’s article “Why Work Life Balance Didn’t Bring Me Happiness (And It Probably Won’t Work For You!),” offers some tips on finding calm when trying to integrate work and life:

  • “When it comes to our thoughts, the key is to be present wherever you are.”
  • “[W]hen you are distracted, stressed or worried, just stop, be still and take 3 long slow breaths.”
  • “When it comes to our actions, we need to be aware of just how we are using our time. We all have exactly the same number of minutes, hours and days in a week, but we can all choose how to use them.”
  • “Be aware of how you are spending your time – if you say ‘yes’ to something you are saying ‘no’ to something else so be clear on the things that you want in your life – take control of them and make them your priority.”
  • “Try letting go of ‘balance’ and instead aim for ‘now’.”

Lawyers do need balance by enjoying activities outside of work and having friendships and meaningful family time.  This does not mean that lawyers are unable to find satisfaction in daily tasks.