Most of the attorneys that I work with do not believe that it is possible for them to create happiness within their current environment. They come to me unhappy and overworked. They believe that the only way things are going to get better is if the firm finally changes. Or if they leave. Part of the work that I do with my clients is helping them to start setting boundaries and flexing their “no” muscle.
Saying, “No, ” is always an option available to us to make more time for ourselves. To make time for the things that actually matter to us. So that we can find some space and happiness. We know, logically, that if we want more time, more balance, and more peace, boundaries are part of the deal but we are reluctant to flex those muscles because we fear the consequences.
There is a difference between not knowing how to resolve a problem and being afraid to implement solutions you know exist.
When my clients consider the possibility of not responding to an email at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night, it doesn’t seem like a real option. Their brains tell them that those kinds of boundaries will get them fired, demoted, judged, and “into trouble.”
We set boundaries because we know what is good for us; that doesn’t mean others are going to like it.
But let’s explore that. My clients that are learning to set boundaries and say “no” continue to meet their hourly obligations to the extent those obligations are clear. They continue to do good work, often times even better work. They continue to be a team player. And with these changes their attitude and energy change dramatically as well. Is it reasonable to believe that a firm is going to fire someone performing in this manner simply because they are not willing to be a doormat, on call 24/7? It’s possible. But it’s also possible that the firm will swallow that pill even though they don’t like it.
If this resonates with you, grab a free session and commit today to start living differently.
Furthermore, when we tell ourselves that setting these boundaries, pushing back and saying “no” is going to cause us to get fired, I don’t believe that result differs from the alternative. I work with attorneys all day long, every day. Attorneys who are burnt out and unhappy. Attorneys who have implemented the rage quit or attorneys who are tap dancing on the edge of it. What I submit is this:
If we continue the path that we have historically been on, where we ignore our boundaries and forget how to say “no,” the ultimate result is that we leave. We leave burnt out, unhappy, and disillusioned, believing that practicing law is just not right for us. That path may take several years to trek but ultimately the lack of boundaries ends with a sad exit.
In contrast, we can choose a path where we speak our truth. We’re honest about our availability, we set clear boundaries and make time for what’s really important to us. If that path were to result in us being terminated, we must also ask:
Is that so much worse than the alternative?
How long do you think you could flex those “no” muscles, set boundaries, stand up for yourself, and make more time for what’s really important to you before the firm steps in and decides that they no longer want to employ you? Six months? A year? What would that time be like for you? To have more time, more balance, to have the ability to workout and spend time with your family instead of constantly feeling on the edge and on call. Wouldn’t that six months or one year of balance and peace serve you in a much better manner than those years of burnt out frustration?
The ending is the same most certainly but the person at the end of either of those journeys is absolutely not the same person. And the sacrifices each of them would make during those journeys could not be more different. The choice is yours. What do you have to lose?