Getting your brain around “happiness”

Every day of my working life I talk to attorneys who are looking for something to make them “happier.” Mostly they think that a new firm will get them “there.” And sometimes they are right. Even if they aren’t, usually when attorneys have picked up the phone to initiate a relationship with a recruiter, they have “crossed the Rubicon” and have no intention of staying at their current position. It then falls to me to find the gig that is going to get them what they want: more money, better work, more prestige, a chance at parnership–happiness. Thus, I always, always, always try turn the recruiting experience into something more than musical chairs. The “more” part is a process by which the candidate will really evaluate his or her past successes and failures and delve in to that part of the mind that holds dreams, pet projects and wild fantasies about a future practice.

I do all this because I do not believe that happiness comes from “work-life balance.” There is no such thing. I do not believe that working more or less, harder or easier, upside down or backwards is going to make anyone happier. Rather, I believe that happiness comes from an ordered mind. And the only way to get to that state of orderliness is to start rummaging through the detritus that accumulates there. We have to sort through the nagging little thoughts here and there that pull us toward something new and different. If we can take control of that mess, that protoplasm of thought and angst, and really look at it all, structure it, corral it, we can start a rational process that will help us get our actions into line with our dreams. If you don’t think that will get you to happiness, maybe you’ve never experienced it. Ecstasy? I hope so. Joy? Surely. But happiness?–that state of calm pleasure, of contentedness with one’s life, an absence of unreasonable fear, a state of habitual clarity of thought and unhurried productivity? Think about it.

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