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9 Questions Every Lawyer Needs to Ask Themselves

I came across this quote on Facebook:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” ~ Wendell Berry

When we’re up against it, baffled, confused, stymied, unhinged, uncertain, confused, that is the time when confessing what is in our hearts is most powerful.

They say that confession is good for the soul. I’m a firm believer in that—a remnant of my Catholic upbringing—but not for the purpose of forgiveness. Confession is a means to find out our deepest truths and what is stopping us from having the life we really want… 

But we’re really good at withholding the truth from ourselves. It’s as if something in us believes we can only handle so much truth at a time and so meters the gates of our deep desires, resentments, and fears so we don’t get overwhelmed.

Withholding the truth from ourselves keeps us small and unmoving. Admitting (confessing) the truth gives us a chance to be bigger than we were and move through fear into action.

After all, no one learns to love a new food by pretending it doesn’t exist. No one learns to run a business by not running it. We only learn something new, become something new by actually doing it. And the ONLY first step is admitting it.

How do we withhold, or hide, as lawyers? I’ve noticed that lawyers are in some ways better than others at hiding the truth. I don’t mean that lawyers are liars or bad people (of course not!). Lawyers are first and foremost required to keep secrets. We get in the habit of not telling things—especially not feelings. We can hold an awful lot before we’re unable to contain it.

RF open-door-1152770-mWe’re really just like everyone else. We feel fear, regret, loneliness, vulnerability, desire, excitement. We feel, but we rarely admit it. We don’t show our soft underbellies readily. Lawyers often reach for a chemical to alleviate the pain of our self-imposed emotional and professional isolation. This is where the power of “confession” can help us reach out and give us courage to expand, and identify the people and ideas that can stretch our experience into more meaning, joy, and sustainability.

What could you confess, admit to, recognize and accept that might lift the floodgate and let your best life come rushing in?

Here are some topics to consider—these are things I’ve been thinking about lately and confessing as well…

We’ll call them the 9 questions every lawyer should ask themselves:

#1: What do you really want out of your life?

Is it big? Is it edgy? Are you scared at how big the thing is that you want? Are you embarrassed that it’s small? Don’t judge it, just be honest. I want to be well known for helping parents acquire a solid understanding of the law that affects them in a way that can be digested and deployed readily. I want to write a book or ten, and have them appear in Barnes and Noble (I’m not kidding, I really do). What can you let yourself want? How big can you want?

#2:  What do you NOT want?

I know, people say not to focus on the negative. But that’s bullshit. Half of what we want is what we don’t want. I don’t want any more debt. I don’t want discontent in my relationship with my ex-husband. Of course, I turn these into positives (for example, I want financial freedom and an amicable relationship with my ex), but don’t be afraid to say what you don’t want. That is honesty at its root.

#3: Where do you feel weak?

These are the places you will want to get help fast. If you don’t face this, you’ll show up not doing those things well. For instance, I feel weak at following through on the little details of planning. The tiny little things drain me and make me feel overwhelmed. I absolutely must face this and find someone who can do it for me so I can stay as highly functioning as possible. The alternative is that I could get tired and resentful of those things, screw them up, and shoot myself in the foot. That helps no one.

#4: Where do you feel strong?

conqueror-1310598-mWhat are you super awesome at? What do you think about in your day as the highlight or the thing you look forward to? For me, it’s conducting Family Legacy Interviews™. For some reason, that’s where my genius is. I’m crazy good at it and I love it. I won’t let others do this part of the work, even though I could, because I want to have the deep dive with my clients and they with me.

#5: In what ways do you modify your appearance or presentation to the world?

Lawyers are known for appearing severe, stuffed, and inhuman. Have you bought into the traditional lawyer look? I know many lawyers who wear nothing but dark clothes. Women lawyers often chop off their hair to shoulder length and straighten it so it’s asexual and maybe even a little intimidating. If you could wear anything to work, what would it be? If you could have any hairstyle you want, what would it look like? Do you love the way you appear and present? If you could be more of who you really want to be, what part of your presentation might emerge more fully? Your voice? Your compassion? Your humor? Your joy? Your lightheartedness?

#6: What or who do you resent in your life right now?

Yes, yes, yes, I know! There are so many people who say that you should only ever focus on your gratitude and positive thoughts. I’m not buying it. Pretending like we don’t feel some resentment here and there only lets resentment build up to torrential levels. Notice in your body where you may feel some constriction. Locate its source. Speak it to someone else. Ask for guidance on what to do to change or at least alleviate some of the pressure you may feel. Are you giving too much? Are you saying yes to too many things? Once you recognize (admit!) it, you can then work on turning it around and dealing with it, but denial is just something else that keeps us stuck and small.

#7: What do you want to carve away?

RF carve tree-carving-722817-mPruning that which no longer serves is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself. Are you serving on a non-profit board that doesn’t rev your engine anymore? Are you volunteering for something that doesn’t excite you? Are you saying yes to committees and events and people that aren’t a total “YES!” Say it out loud. Admit when you’re overextended. Admit what it is you’d like to prune away.

#8: What feels joyful in your life right now?

Obviously, we give our gratitude where it arises. The point in confessing both joys and resentments is getting comfortable with the discomfort of feeling. As multidimensional feeling beings, it’s natural that we can feel gratitude and resentment in the very same moment. What is working in your life? What is awesome and what do you want MORE of?

#9: What do you want to do in the world?

Brace yourself. Tell the truth. Admit it. No matter how crazy, far fetched, or nutty it seems, if you could do anything at all, what gift, work, or change would you want to bring to the world? This is different than the first question—that’s what you want have, receive, or experience. This is what you want to give or do.

Most importantly, find someone you trust deeply who can receive your words without comment or need to advise, or who, if they do advise, is absolutely brilliant at it. Just one person is sufficient. Tell them everything. Let it all out. Admit the truth of who you are and who you want to be.

Don’t try to make anything happen yet. Don’t try to fix anything, change anything, do anything. Yet. In this moment, admitting the truth to at least one other person is enough.

RF stairs stairs-1243546-mThere’s time to make things happen later. Knowing and owning your will is the first step to creating the life you want. Next, watch what happens. Do you notice things shifting underneath you, aligning themselves to your newly cleared vision? Watch, wonder, enjoy.

If you enjoyed this experience of going within, questioning yourself and deep self-confession…

Can you imagine practicing law with a group of people who feel similarly about the importance of self-care, self-examination, conscious relationship and evolving the way we practice law?

This is that group.  You can join us to practice law in a new way.

 

About the Contributor
Martha Hartney
Martha Hartney's is a successful Estate Planning lawyer in Colorado and co-creator of the Estate Planning Bootcamp. As a Law Business Mentor her greatest hope is to help other lawyers claim, or reclaim, the joy and the spiritual pursuit of being a lawyer.

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