Can we get ahead in life without taking stock of and addressing the emotional spaces that we go through? Is it a sign of weakness or wasting time to address our emotions or is it absolutely essential for sanity and therefore success?
My wife and I took a drive to the hills a couple of weeks back. We had a great time. The views were beautiful. We accomplished a mini road trip.
However, from time to time, anxiety took over. What is the forward momentum I’m losing out on by not being at work? Is it okay? I know it’s alright and necessary to take a break, but it’s difficult to accept that I need one. Anxiety slowly gnaws all over my body and strangles me when I’m not in the middle of action at work. It took me a lot of conscious effort to keep this anxiety in check.
When I was returning back, I felt rested. I also realized that I had not fully recovered from the tiredness, and that a few days’ longer break would enable me to rest fully.
At the same time, I knew I was incapable of taking a longer break, given my current mental and emotional state. I was not urgently needed at work, and could have afforded to take the time off.
My team was taking care of the basic necessities and there was no fire to put out anywhere. However, what was bothering me was that my absence meant a pause in kicking off some of our growth plans.
When I got back to work, the anxiety immediately disappeared. I was calm and focussed. I was in the thick of things and could restart the process of growth. That is when I felt at peace.
A couple of weeks after resuming work, however, the mountain of deadlines for our unprecedented goals started to frighten me. It is daunting for me to visualize how we will meet such ambitious goals.
It is ironic that I have been anxious to get back to work when I was on a break, and now that I’m back to work, I’m already feeling frightened and exhausted.
It is kind of frustrating.
In the past, I have tried to distract myself with other pursuits to avoid feeling this stress.
Spending a disproportionate amount of time to volunteering at an organization focussed on self-development.
Each of the above activities served as a way to harness my nervous energy. There is no doubt that these activities were beneficial for me. They kept me sane and kept me going in incredibly difficult and stressful times.
Martial arts made me fit and mentally resilient. I became physically stronger. I gained a different kind of confidence.
Working on self-development enabled me to learn about training and coaching like I had never before. I found coaches who impacted my life in fundamental ways.
Also, by contributing to others who were working on their own self-development, my self-image and understanding of my capabilities as a leader grew tremendously.
Still, at times, they acted as escape doors to avoid the harsh realities and anxiety with respect to my work life. At this point, it is easy to get lured into thinking that you can take refuge into such activities rather than fight the battles of your life that keep you awake at night. I made that mistake a few times when I was younger.
although there are activities that add to my overall experience of well-being, they are not a substitute for my life’s purpose.
I have dedicated myself to working on creating the next level of legal education in the world. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. I have bet my career on it and spend the majority of my waking hours working on it. The work on legal education is an expression of my life’s purpose.
This is where the biggest accomplishments and rewards show up. Naturally, this is also where I also encounter the biggest obstacles, setbacks, betrayals, challenges and personal failures. This is also the one thing, therefore, that gives me dreams and nightmares the most. This is what I am most anxious about.
I look for escapes at times when all of this gets too much to handle. And I have turned to martial arts, yoga or self-development training at times not as a tool but as an escape at times. At the time it felt like the right thing to do, but very soon the high of such escapes wore off, and it felt like the world was suddenly less meaningful.
Distracting myself with anything else has only made my life feel less meaningful for me, every single time I went for it.
So how do I deal with anxiety now? I am learning to not cover up anxiety with more work, but to take rest. The real work for me right now is to be at peace with the fact that I need a rest from time to time, and that I am entitled to it. I am learning that I need it to be productive and effective.
I also need to accept an occasional slowdown when I need rest in the face of immediate tasks and overwhelming deadlines.
Accidentally, I also discovered something new. In the face of all the pressure, I realized that the accomplishments of our students and teams, especially when overcame difficult challenges and obstacles, brought me tremendous joy.
For example, it brought me satisfaction when one of the students of our Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code course, who is also an independent practitioner, wrote an article on the types of work insolvency lawyers can perform for different clients. I was very satisfied to see the clarity in her understanding. It signalled to me that the purpose of our course was, in a way, delivered well, because she now gets how a lawyer can add value to clients in the area of her work.
It may sound strange, but most young lawyers lack this understanding, and while it is easy to teach sections or case law, or even drafting, it is much harder to instill that kind of wisdom in a student where she really gets how she can add value as a lawyer. It is a very critical ingredient for success as a lawyer.
Here is a link to that article.
I felt incredibly proud when Komal Shah, our content head, prepared a breakthrough outline for our Securities Appellate Tribunal litigation course. Tribunal litigation in niche areas is an excellent career opportunity for lawyers. She has started identifying new career opportunities and the skills that lawyers need to develop in order to learn to tap into such opportunities on their own. This is the first step we take at the time of conceptualizing a course. This is the work that makes our courses stand out and add immense value to learners, even if they have many years of legal experience already!
Komal’s work will massively increase our ability to deliver value to our students. It will also enable us to grow faster. Remember what I love the most? Growth. And only when our students and colleagues grow, there is any chance of LawSikho growing.
We will be launching a lot of new specialised litigation courses in the next few weeks. It is an exciting time for us as LawSikho. Do check out Litigation Library if you want to benefit from the upcoming launch of new courses. We are hiking the price of Litigation Library after these launches, so I am giving you a heads up to benefit from the current introductory prices.
Sorry, I digress.
When Harsh Jain, Senior Associate at Lawsikho, makes plans for training some of our new joinees to write chapters which add value to practising lawyers, I feel euphoric. I see how meticulous and detailed he is, and the high standards he is setting for everyone. As a leader at LawSikho, it makes me feel optimistic about the things we are going to do in the coming months. He is working on scaling our course creation process, because there are so many important legal subjects we have not even touched yet!
When Silpa Das, Associate at Lawsikho, created a fantastic outline for how to impart skills related to trademark litigation, I felt rejuvenated! This is an area where her interest lies, and when she creates a compelling outline for lawyers, I know she is on the right path.
These sources of joy took the “overwhelming pressure” away from the apparently difficult deadlines. I look forward to getting to work every morning!
Make no mistake – the overwhelming deadlines, however, are still sacred and written in stone. I will meet them, though I cannot see every step of the way.
However, what I am doing now is this. Instead of visualizing myself trying to shoulder the weight of a big mountain alone so that it does not collapse over me, I am visualizing those beautiful accomplishments of individual people which lie on the way as we go ahead to meet these deadlines.
I am imagining the victories of our team members when we meet these deadlines.
What kind of amazing feats will they accomplish when they do this?
How will that improve their confidence as lawyers?
How will that enable our customers to succeed? What new clients and matters will they be able to take up?
How will their practices grow?
How will that contribute to their earnings and their vision of their career?
How will that contribute to their quality of life?
Those bring me joy, and are worth putting tremendous effort in.
By the way, what happened to my struggle to be anxiety-free in a vacation?
Well, that part remains unresolved.
The anxiety probably remains because I want to build a team and organization that can grow in my absence at a certain velocity, and because that work is still not done. It won’t take forever, but we are still some distance away from it.
I’m still sharing an unresolved pain point with you because many of us consider such pain points to be problems in life which are to be avoided. On the other hand, these are exactly the challenges in life which one needs to solve, piece by piece, to create the life one wants.
That life will not be created some day in a distant time, but it reveals itself every moment, as we struggle with the obstacles on our path.
When I found joy in the accomplishments of Komal, Harsh and Silpa, a new part of my life and future unveiled itself. One that had freedom to rest, the satisfaction of training others and the growth of our organization.
Imagining a life where all three components exist simultaneously has been impossible earlier, till this happened.
The discovery that I could find joy in people’s accomplishments despite crazy deadlines has implications beyond my own career. It impacts the quality of my life. More joy in my career means I take back more joy to share at home, with friends. I am happier when I go to sleep, when I wake up, when I work out, and when I perform any other activity in my life.
I am that much happier in every area of my life.
Have you taken the time out to acknowledge your emotional spaces, and examine which pain points remain unresolved, unattended, ignored and buried?
If your pain points are around building a successful career in law, or if you are struggling to become a better lawyer with limited guidance, consider the following courses which are open for enrolment
Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws
Executive Certificate Courses