By David Cooper
A very important aspect of practicing law (of practicing life, really) is maintaining your mental and emotional well-being often referred to as “Attorney Wellness.” The Idaho State Bar and the legal profession as a whole have become acutely aware of the need to maintain and enhance attorney wellness.
The purpose of this article is to encourage you to take attorney wellness seriously. While every situation is unique, most of us are in the best position to keep ourselves functioning in a healthy and productive manner. We need to take responsibility. If a burden becomes too great, we have to be prepared to take action.
Renewal as Strategy
One potential means of enhancing your wellness is to experience intentional and purposeful renewal. In other words, make renewal a strategic part of your life. The definition of renewal that comes closest to what I am referencing is “the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.”
The opportunity for renewal in its most basic form happens every single day when we crawl out of bed on at least a few hours of sleep, with fresh (or fresher) eyes than the night before. If you are a morning person like me, have you noticed how problems that seemed insurmountable the night before are often not nearly as onerous the next morning?
Purposeful renewal can be found in events major and minor. Passing the bar exam, starting a new job, or moving to a new location are all fairly obvious examples. I am a runner – whatever form of exercise works for you can also provide renewal.
Time-related milestones can help us. Recurring opportunities for renewal include:
- January 1st of every year – that’s why we have “New Year’s” resolutions, right?
- Your birthday – especially those birthdays ending in a zero (30, 40, 50, 60, 70, etc.). These are a great reminder that the clock is ticking for all of us. If we’re gonna do something, we can’t wait forever.
- The first day of every month, and even the Monday morning of every work week. These days can essentially provide you with an excuse for starting over.
Renewal as Survival
If we live long enough, life will throw some significant challenges at us. In my late teens, I was fortunate to survive a situation (a drowning accident) that took the lives of my parents and a brother and sister. I’ve often thought that this tragedy forced me to find emotional survival tricks. Renewal is one of them. When a person is dealing with loss, you can end up in some dark places and need to find a way out.
Here are some of the things I think I learned along the way:
- Be nice to yourself – sometimes crazy is normal, depending on the circumstances.
- Find people you can be vulnerable around. Probably obvious, but crucial.
- Make sure to give to others when you can, because in challenging times you may need to be a taker. Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. Pay it back (or forward) when you can.
- Don’t be afraid to “trial and error” your way through different possible means of helping yourself. Not every solution works for every person.
- One of the most difficult lessons for me: be humble. You have a breaking point. Sometimes you can’t actually do it all yourself.
Do you hate your job? Find a new one. Are you spending too much time at the office due to billable hours? Find another way to get paid. Are key relationships in your life not flourishing? Re-prioritize. Doing too much or too little of anything in your life? Figure out the root problem and take control. In summary, having the imagination, strength, and strategies to find an excuse to start over can help us to enhance our lives, or let go of prior events and move forward.
David C. Cooper is the Idaho Regional Manager for Northwest Trustee & Management Services based in Boise where he specializes in trust administration and financial planning. David received his J.D. from the University of Kansas and upon graduation served as a law clerk for the Honorable Thomas E. Schulz in Ketchikan, Alaska. David is the current President of the Boise Estate Planning Council, past President of the Treasure Valley Estate Planning Council, and past Chairperson of the CLE Planning Committee of the Idaho State Bar Taxation, Probate & Trust Law Section. David graduated from the Idaho Academy of Leadership for Lawyers in 2015. In his spare time, he is a runner, plays guitar, and is an avid sports fan.