Professional Coach James Dolan Advises Lawyers to Work--and Live--in the Present Moment
It's a busy, demanding world for today's lawyers. Like a swift, strong current at sea, various time pressures can sweep our minds far out into the future--a future filled with anxiety about how we can meet our quota for billable hours, get a favorable result for our client in court, or finally close a deal after months of negotiation. Similarly, the past haunts us with its doubts and second-guessing--the seemingly endless parade of "what if?" questions that marches through our minds.
In a thoughtful article in Texas Lawyer, James Dolan, a Dallas-based professional coach and psychotherapist, warns attorneys about losing themselves in the past or the future--what he calls the "Preparing to Live Syndrome" or "PtLS". Dolan describes PtLS as an extreme form of deferred gratification in which the sufferer endures a lot of unpleasant experiences today, hoping that those experiences will somehow lead to a better life tomorrow.
As an example, Dolan mentions a partner at a large law firm for whom the promise of a better life during her early retirement, still eighteen years away, kept her going. When Dolan asked that attorney what she would do during her retirement, she replied simply but vaguely, "I'm going to live my own life for a change."
That lawyer is not alone. Dolan says that PtLS is a common condition in modern Western culture that causes a lot of anxiety, depression, and suffering. Specifically, the problem is that "we trade what we truly have"--the present moment--for a future that does not yet and might never exist. As a result, many of us seek relief in "addiction, pay raises and promotions and all manner of frantic behavior." Dolan points out that the present moment is "the one moment of the only life we will ever have that we truly possess."
If PtLS is the disease, then what's the cure for it? Dolan suggests that lawyers promise themselves: "Today is the only day that belongs to me; I will live it the best way I know how."
From there, he offers numerous examples of how to work, as well as not work, consciously and mindfully. Not working includes spending time doing pleasant activities with full awareness, as well as simply being in touch with and enjoying our surroundings, without having to do anything. We can pursue interests outside our work. We can spend a little more time with our loved ones. We can slow down. We can enjoy our lives in this moment. Right here. Right now.
By Steve Imparl, guest blogger