By Kwan Cheung
A big house in the countryside? Freedom to travel the world? A big family? We all have different ideas of ‘happiness’ and end goals for ourselves. However, we all need to ask ourselves are we are actively working towards them and making them happen?
Do you remember what your lofty goals you had when you were a fresh-faced Law student? They were probably around landing a training contract at a prestigious international law firm, then perhaps toiling away for a few years to become Senior Associate, perhaps working towards making Partner.
However, our goals, understandably changes as we progress with our lives and our careers. What seemed straight-forward in our youth becomes complicated by other momentous events in our lives; meeting our partner, starting a family, relocating or discovering a passion for a certain hobby. All these factors may have an impact on our life priorities and therefore our life goals.
When we have attained a certain level in our professional careers and become more comfortable at a certain pace or level of work – perhaps because of other events in life – we may take a step back and think ‘where am I heading?’ or ‘what am I working towards?’
The answer is different for everyone; for some it may be working for early retirement; for others it may be that they enjoy the thrill of chasing promotion or bonuses; others may seek a more harmonious work/life balance. However different the answers are though; we must make sure that we’re all actively working towards our goal rather than simply working.
Look for the forest not the trees
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our day-to-day work; humans are creatures of routine. We become ‘stuck in our ways’ and once we become used to doing certain things a certain way, they become a habit and we do them instinctively, without conscious thought. Have you ever driven to work and unable to recall any part of the journey when you get there? Which shoe did you put on first this morning, left or right? Our brains become trained to performing these mundane tasks and operates on auto-pilot, saving our focus and energy for more important tasks. A survival instinct.
Of course, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with focusing on each day as it comes, particularly if you enjoy your daily work. However, without occasionally taking a step back and taking stock, we may find ourselves not progressing towards our goals at all. So what can we do to both maximise our happiness and reach our goals?
1. Make it realistic
Setting life goals is great; they give you something to strive for which can push you work harder and drive your further. However, you need to make these goals realistic. They don’t have to be completely achievable, but you should be able to track progress through milestones. Completely unrealistic goals that are never going to be achieved can have the opposite effect can be disparaging and demotivating.
2. Take note
Whilst your ultimate goal might always be in the back of your mind, it has been shown that physically writing down long-term goals makes you more likely to achieve them. Writing them down not only reinforces their importance to you but also serves as a reminder to update them and review progress regularly. This works well for day-to-day and shorter term goals too.
3. Develop a positive mental attitude
Lawyers are, by their nature, realists and over-thinkers; scrutinising all risks and analysing outcomes to the nth degree. This depth of analysis may be perfect for our professional careers but not very beneficial for our personal lives. Think positive and positive things will happen. Ok, so that might not be completely true, but everyone – yourself included – will have negative events happen upon them at various points of their lives, these are inevitable. However, how you perceive and react to these events will determine their impact upon you and thereby your own happiness. By adopting a more positive outlook and surrounding yourself with positive people, you’ll perhaps discover that what seems like the worst thing to happen to you at the time, probably wasn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things and you’ll have come out of it as a stronger, wiser person rather than dwelling upon it and letting it control you.
Equally, there are some goals that you set which you probably won’t ever achieve. That’s OK. Such is life. The key thing is reassessing an adapting when situations change. A positive attitude will help you deal with this much better than feeling bitter and wallowing in self-pity.
4. Don’t compare your journey to others
A short one: don’t compare yourself to others. It’s not healthy or comparing like-for-like. So stop. Instead, compare yourself to how far you’ve come from yesterday or since you first dreamt up your goal. You’ll be surprised how far you’ve come.
5. It’s about the journey not the destination
Last but certainly no means least, remember that having goals to strive for are great motivation, but they’re not set in stone and meeting them is not a ‘make-or-break’ situation. Our working lives can be over 50 years long (and probably longer in future). UK life expectancy is 79 years old. That equates to 63% of our years spent working. Therefore, arguably more important than attaining our goals, is also enjoying that 63% of life spent at work. This is starting to be recognised by the current working population around the world. There is a growing demand for better work life balance, even if that comes at the cost of a lower salary, particularly amongst millennials.
In the face of rigid traditional working models which still preserve presenteeism and a belief that agile working is a fad, many employees are now turning to freelancing or contract working in order to create their own work life balance. Here at Vario, we are seeing increasing numbers of lawyers and legal professionals sign up to join our hub of freelancing Varios to improve their work life balance and flexibility over more traditional approaches to work, yet still progress towards fulfilling their personal and professional goals.
If you’d like to see whether freelancing could provide you with a better solution to meeting your life goals, get in touch.