By Brandy Simpson • August 02, 2020•Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
“Run Your Own Race.” “Just Do You.” “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.” There are multiple quotes and phrases to remind you to stay in your lane so to speak, and focus on what is important to you both professionally and personally. In the practice of law, I frequently have to remind myself to slow down and stay focused on things that are important to me.
We are all different. Our goals are different. The things that bring each of us joy……guess what, they are different. Some people get a real charge out of billing over 200 hours a month or winning the next big trial. Others may enjoy volunteering their time and energy to organizations that support children, education or underserved communities. There are also those who want to work part-time and raise their families. There is no "right" way to be an attorney or practice law.
No matter what path you choose, it is easy to get caught up in the perceived successes of your colleagues which may make you feel inferior or behind in your own success. Taking a step back to remind yourself of the things that are most important to you and your goals for the future, can help you recharge and refocus.
I recently saw a meme with the following statement while scrolling through LinkedIn, and it stopped me in my tracks. (Thank you, Maura Quint.)
"20 things that women should stop wearing after the age of 30:
1-20: The weight of other people's expectations and judgments."
I read it. Reread it….and then, read it again.
It hit home for me. (As an aside, if you can manage to do this before you hit 30, good for you!) Admittedly, I am work in progress. I frequently have to be reminded that I will never make everyone happy. Ever. I will always be too much for some and not enough for others. I can go days, sometimes even weeks, without worrying too much about what others may think about how I handled a given professional situation, whether a particular email was “too snarky,” or if I’m living up to the expectations of others in parenting my children. However, the thoughts always creep back in. The older I get, the more I realize worrying about what others think is a drain on my energy and brain power.
So, how does one go about figuring out what’s important to them without worrying about what others will think? First and foremost, be honest with yourself. You know you better than anyone else. Take out all the expectations of others and really dive deep. What really motivates you, challenges you, and encourages you to keep moving forward? Identify these things and cultivate them.
Try not to get stuck in the comparison game. It’s exhausting and it creates an internal battle that can never be won. There will always be someone who can regurgitate more case law, bills more hours, outwardly appears to have a more successful career, spends more time volunteering, etc. Do not expend your energy worrying about what others are doing that you are not. It is important to recognize we all bring things to the table, just not the same things. Instead of worrying about the successes, expectations and judgments of others, focus your time and energy on yourself and meeting your own personal and professional goals.
Finally, don’t feel stuck by your goals and aspirations today. It’s completely acceptable for the list of what’s important to you to change and evolve over time. Things will change, you’ll get older, you may start a family, you may get divorced, you may decide you hate the practice of law. So, if what’s important to you now isn’t what’s important to you three weeks, three months, or three years from now, it’s no big deal. Just remember- “Do you.”