Six years ago when I graduated law school, I spent five months in the dreaded job search. During my most exciting interview, the senior attorney said to me, “Whether you get this job or not, whatever you end up doing, make sure you live your life. Be a good lawyer, but be a good human, too. Enjoy the law and enjoy living. Don’t stop riding your bike or traveling or cooking. Don’t look back and think this is all you did.”
Six years later, I wonder. Have I forgotten this advice? Should I try following it now?
In today’s cell phone, zip file, g-mail world, are we living? My fiancée has a work cell phone, a work e-mail account that he can access from home, and clients that never stop calling. I have a work e-mail account that I can access from home, a personal cell phone I use for work. Each night, we come home from work, pop a dinner in the microwave and eat. Then, we sleep. When we are not working we worry about our work. Twenty years from now, will this be worth it? If you are in a job that sacrifices your life, is it worth it? If you have to keep the job, are there ways to make life better?
Studies show that stress is a major factor in causing many serious illnesses, including cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, and heart disease. While many of life’s stresses are unavoidable, could we avoid more than we think? Is today the day to change our lives?
One night, I sat down with my fiancée at dinner and pleaded my case; we are lawyers, after all. I asked him, is this how we want to live? He wholeheartedly agreed that work was taking over our life and somewhere in the last six years we had lost our lives, to illness caused by stress and stress caused by work.
We changed our lives. We cook together two or three times a week and enjoy a home cooked meal. We take a short walk each night after dinner and talk about our workday. On the weekends, we do not work on Saturdays; that day, each week, we pamper ourselves with simple pleasures, restaurants, movies, and the zoo. We reconnected. We started exercising and our appetites increased. His blood pressure decreased. We connected with our families again and we visit them often. We gained weight. Now, we balance.
The life-work balance is a difficult one to manage but, with small steps, we are working to find equilibrium in our lives and be good at both our job and at our life. Being good at our job was never in question; we would always work hard to be good lawyers, good employees, but, now, we were also good to each other, to ourselves and it started to show in our work. Productivity increased. In the office, I spend less time talking to my peers, knowing that if my work is done, I can enjoy my evening with him and my weekends away from the computer. Outside of the office, we screen calls and take only the calls that are emergencies. We have a new bucket list, of places to travel and things to do in our city. Life is changing, and it is beautiful. Ask yourself, is this worth it, and, if not, how can I make my life better? The simplest steps make a world of difference, at work, and in your life. We cannot change our jobs or our hours, but we can take small steps to improve the quality of our life. Twenty years from now, the performance evaluation might still matter, but the pictures from Italy will definitely matter more. Water the flowers as you must, but don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.