When Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith asks audiences around the world to complete the following sentence, one word is overwhelmingly provided: “When my kids grow up, I want them to be _______.” Your response? It was probably “happy.” No other answer – successful, wealthy, healthy, well-adjusted, etc – comes remotely close.
Why is that? What does it tell us about what we value? The good news is that it affirms our good judgment. We get it viscerally that life is brief and precious and that little else matters if we are not happy. Yet, relatively few of us make a serious commitment to consciously increase our happiness even though it’s the core state of being we wish for our loved ones.
What does this have to do with productivity you might be asking? Or with time management for lawyers? Let me answer with another question: All things being equal, are you a better lawyer, a better colleague, a better boss, when you’re happier in your life or when you’re less happy in your life?
Even in the midst of the fiercest litigation, your energy, focus, demeanor, judgment and confidence are enhanced when you’re operating from a place of increased overall happiness in your life. As psychologist Philip Zimbardo notes in his book The Time Paradox, “Most people do give themselves time to be happy in their two weeks of vacation a year. But that that is not enough.
You need to integrate happiness into your . . . life.” Now, if consciously cultivating increased happiness seems either superfluous on the one hand, or desirable but impossible on the other, consider the some of the simple actions you could take this week:
- Browse the humor section in a bookstore
- Pick up a simple present (like a book) for a loved one
- Take an after-dinner walk
- Tell someone you love that you appreciate them
- Pull out (or download) some music you used to enjoy in your younger days
- Write a quick note card to someone you appreciate
- Get tickets for a play, a concert, or ball game
- Rekindle a hobby you’ve let slip
If you already do some of these things, great. The trick is to elevate them (or whatever activities bring you happiness) so that they’re a more regular part of your life, and not relegate them to the “when I have time” category of life.
So commit to doing ONE thing this week to bring a little bit of extra happiness into your life that you otherwise wouldn’t have. You’ll be a better lawyer, colleague, boss, and family member for it.