Mindful On The Job

 

Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying – Studs Turkel, author

Sunday night rolls around all too quickly.  The weekend, if we actually give ourselves a break from our jobs, can’t often prepare us for the frenzy of the week’s activity at the office that awaits us.  If we like our jobs as lawyers – and granted there are alot of us who do – we still may feel it’s half-baked- “it still could be better” we think to ourselves.

Michael Carroll, author of the book, Awake at Work, was employed at such places as Shearson Lehman, American Express and The Walt Disney Company.  More recently, he has been a consultant and coach to such companies as Starbucks and Proctor and Gamble.  His comments, into what workers really want out of their jobs, is insightful to the lives of lawyers on the job:

“In my role as a business consultant, I regularly ask my clients to complete the following sentence with the first word that comes to mind:

At work, I want to be. . .

While my survey is not scientifically reliable, I can report there are some patterns to the responses.  Here are the four most frequent answers:

  • Successful
  • Happy
  • Rewarded
  • Stress-free

Such responses come as no surprise.  Given the demands, risks and relentless pace of our modern-day workplace, it is little wonder that most of us would like a little stress-free happiness on occasion.  Rewards and success-isn’t that what we are all looking for at work?”

Who can’t relate to that take on the legal profession?  Whether we are happy in our jobs or not, we all think about how we can embrace more of these intangibles while at the office.

Carroll, in addition to being in the business world for the past forty-four years, is a long-time meditator and proponent of mindfulness meditation.  Here’s a great introduction to what Mindfulness is about:

You don’t have to be a Buddha sitting in a lotus garden to appreciate this fundamental and simple way of approaching your day.  It’s not so much a different way of doing and accomplishing stuff; lawyers are great at that.  Rather, it’s a different way of seeing at work.  Moreover, seeing via a discipline of mindfulness meditation, seeks to plant our feet directly on the carpet. It’s not so much about being alert and wired to the swirling stimuli peppering us from every angle.  It’s taking a time-out and leaning against the wall; it’s about letting the other half of our brain complement our eagerness to get things done.

Coming back to Michael Carroll’s survey about what people want out of their work, he opines that it’s not really success, happiness, being reward and a stress-free work-life: 

“My survey indicates that most of us think we want to happy, successful, and to be stress-free at work, but we also know that such aspirations are wishful thinking.  We all know work offers both success and failure; happiness and angst.  We know that work, indeed all of life, unavoidably presents both rewards and penalties; joys and disappoints. So, while most of us wish to be happy and successful at work, what we really want, from my vantage point, is to be confident: confident that no matter what work offers up, we remain self-assured and at our ease.”

In my experience, truer words were never spoken. As lawyers, there is a wonderful sense we get about our craft when we achieve a certain level of competence and feel that we can handle whatever down the pike.  We can acheive this sense of competence not just through the nuts and bolts of accomplishments in the courtroom, but through practice as sense of presence in our daily lives.

Explore how mindfulness meditation can help you at the office.  Also, for those so inclined, check out the wonderful book, which I’ve previously raved about, The Mindfulway Through Depression.  It’s not only for those with depression, but suitable for anyone who struggles with a sense of dissatisfaction and/or unhappiness at work.

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