Are You Addicted to Success?

That’s a diagnosis offered in today’s WSJ (subscription req.) Maybe our culture puts too much emphasis on professional achievement.

While there is nothing wrong in striving for high levels of achievement, the problem arises when achievement becomes your principal source of self esteem. And in the current economic climate, it is easy to NOT be successful.

If you haven’t been laid off, your workload may be slow. If your plate is full, maybe your colleagues are not that busy. 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?) I’ve long believed that striving for balance is important in both good times and bad. I’ve written about this many times including a piece I called Striving for Professional Mediocrity.

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.

Yesterday, I played a great squash match. 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!

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