The Lawyer’s Compass Series: The Wholehearted Attorney – Is there a place for them in the legal world?
The genesis for wholehearted living is inside each one of us. It’s not about what we know, who we know, do for a living or how successful we are. Wholehearted living is about being willing to show up — especially when we are in situations that require us to show our vulnerability.
Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night and thinking, “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes I feel afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
– Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
Wholehearted living, at times, is heaven and hell rolled up into the shape of a heart. There is no better way to live and, on occasion, no more of a terrifying way to experience life.
How do I know when I’m living wholeheartedly? When I’m afraid to say how I’m feeling, afraid I might be rejected or look like a fool, or think it’s a waste of my time because it’s never going to work and wonder who am I to be doing this? At least one of (and sometimes all) those thoughts and feelings are coursing through my mind, body and heart at lightning speed when I’m embracing wholehearted living.
All of these can be confused as warning signs to stop, turn around and go home. It makes sense why I interpret them that way. They don’t feel good and the risk of failure seems monumental when compared to the improbability of it working out or what seems to be a rationalized insignificant gain in comparison to what I have to endure.
There is only one thing worse than feeling the uncertainty that comes with living wholeheartedly – keeping truths buried inside. When preparing my clients for deposition, I always tell them “No matter how afraid you are of speaking the truth, there is always one thing worse: not saying it.”
Whether it’s the law office or at home, it can seem better to play it safe. The tried and true, the “It’s how it’s always been”, “It’s just not that important” and “For God’s sake, don’t rock the boat” thoughts are comforting siren calls that don’t so much stop me from crashing into the rocks of life as they keep me anchored in place.
Who do you admire most? The family member or friend who plays it safe or the one who dares to take chances by expressing and being who and what are? I didn’t say whom you love more, but whom you see as an inspiration to go beyond an emotionally safe and secure life.
I’ve always thought it a design flaw that what we need to flourish are the hardest things to do. Surviving can often looking like thriving — but all that sparkles is not gold.
I can advocate a challenging cause for a client when the odds are not in my favor. I can cheer friends and family to live their truest lives, but it seems, at times, hard to find my advocacy skills when it comes to me. Especially when the waves of doubt are crashing in like a tsunami.
If it was any different, Brene Brown’s book would’ve been entitled, Daring Easily instead of Dar-ing Greatly. I take comfort in her research and words:
“Our willingness to own and engage with our own vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity for our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnect.”
Speaking my truth is not about proving someone else is wrong or that I am are right. It’s not about who has the best idea, the right way or that anyone or thing will change. That comes from the competitive world. Living wholeheartedly is in the complimentary sphere of life and requires far more. It depends upon us letting it be known how we really feel and revealing truths about who we really are.
The most difficult conversations I’ve had with my wife and law partner are not when I’m mad. They are when I feel embarrassed or foolish because I need to express how I’m feeling in order to be true to our relationship and myself. No matter how frustrated I get about why I need to say how I’m feeling, there is one thing worse — not saying how I feel. The pain and difficulty I avoid by not speaking up is like the water temperature slowly rising on the frog. I don’t notice that I’m in the process of boiling myself alive.
Wholehearted living is not always for the faint of heart. The lifelong repercussions from not speaking my truths far exceeds the anxiety and stress that engaging from deep in myself demands.
Is there a place for a lawyer to live his or her life wholeheartedly in the practice of law? What do you think? Is it the best way to be? Are there places in your life that are waiting for you to live wholeheartedly?