Note: This article will be published in a similar form in January 2022 in the Baltimore County Bar Association’s publication, The Advocate. However, this is such an important topic, and I wanted to share it with all of you, especially this week as we enter the New Year. I think it is vital for you to see how just asking yourself a few questions now will significantly impact your 2022 (no matter what is going on in our world). Also, as a reminder, I am starting a 6-week workshop on January 5th, just a little over a week away, built to help you decide if 2022 is your year to become a solo practitioner. As you go through this post, ask yourself if going solo might be the answer to some of these questions. Link to the workshop here: Going Solo Workshop.
As we settle into a new year that looks a little uncertain at the onset, I encourage you to take some time to ask yourself what you want your 2022 to look like. Ironically, the first time I wrote about this topic was back in January 2020 when I wrote about the Vision Board I created and talked about all of my hopes, dreams, and excitement for the year to come (link to it here https://lawfullylean.com/2020/01/27/vision-lets-get-a-little-deeper/). I bet right now you are thinking, “Oh poor Wendy, she didn’t see that shit storm coming; poor thing wrote a bright and shiny blog about a bright and shiny 2020 that never came into existence. I know how this story ends.”
Au contraire, my friends and colleagues.
As I write this article, I am looking at my board, and as bonkers as this sounds, practically all of my short and medium-term goals came true, and I am well on my way to the long-term ones. From something as simple as finally having peonies in my garden and painting my front door the perfect color, to things that solidify my family of 4, such as a tropical vacation with my family, more intimacy with my partner, deepened friendships with true friends, a more prolific yoga practice, and (much) more time with my kiddos. Finally, the biggest, baddest, and scariest one came true when I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and became certified as a life coach and launched a new business, which has opened the door to public speaking opportunities all over Maryland. It all happened. While I am waiting on a mission trip to a third-world country, a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, international keynote speaking opportunities, and the kitchen of my dreams, I know I am merely waiting. The funny thing is that the one notion that I kept coming back to in January 2020 when I was figuring out what I wanted the most and underpinned all of my goals: more time with my family. I wanted to ditch aftercare and have my kids ride the bus home. Life has a funny way of working out. Fast forward to 2021, when kiddos were finally back in school, we figured that if we could balance a whole year at home, surely we could manage to make sure someone was home from work an hour or so earlier.
I share this with you so that you don’t stop reading this post and think it is useless to even think about 2022 because who knows what uncertainty this year will bring. It is simply untrue to say you have zero control over 2022. It is incredibly unfair to ignore that little voice telling you it wants something different. Do not rob yourself of what could be. Put away that voice that says it is pointless. Stop that unhelpful thinking and read on.
When it comes to goal setting, future-casting, dreaming, vision-boarding, there are a few key areas where you need to hone in: relationships, career, self, passion, and LIFE. (The book I reference in my blog goes into great depth, and I encourage you to purchase the book and do the exercises in there if you want to get really deep here) (Amazon affiliate link here if you are ready to buy it now – buy the hardcover book, not the Kindle version, you will need it to keep you on track, underline, and have in front of you for homework). However, if you are just willing to spend a little bit of time on this exercise (which will still pay off), I will simplify it a bit so you can get started on your 2022.
I want you to get intentional and focus on several areas, asking yourself these questions as you go along. Get out a pen and paper (or open a new word doc on your computer) and ask yourself these questions. At the end of each topic, write out at least two things you will do differently in 2022, making sure to detail how you will remind yourself of these goals (hint: your Outlook Calendar, yearly planner, and phone alarms are about to get in a workout).
- What relationships matter most to me?
- Am I giving those relationships the best of me?
- What can I do to better pour into those relationships? What small action steps can I take? What do I need to give up to be a better partner/parent/friend/colleague?
- How can I remind myself of this?
Example: My spouse. No, I tend to put work first and leave my spouse last when I am already depleted and tired and comatose on the couch. I need to give my spouse more time and attention when I am at my best. I can make sure I put him/her/them first at least once a week in an affirmative way. I will approach him/her/them about instituting a weekly date night where we do not talk about work, I do not check my emails, and he/she/they has/have my undivided attention. I will calendar this right now, so it is a reoccurring event on my calendar. I will go to the next step and arrange reoccurring childcare right now, so everything is in place and ready.
- How am I doing in my career?
- Do I love the work I am doing? Am I happy where I am? Why or why not?
- What can I do to prove to my bosses and partners I am ready for a raise or a partnership? What can I do if I realize I am ready to practice a new area of law, grow my solo practice, leave my firm, or grow in my role?
- What small steps do I need to take to ensure I am working toward the right goals?
- How can I remind myself of this?
Example: I am an associate and ready to take on more. I love litigating and want to take on more of a lead in cases. My firm wants to see me grow my book of business before they offer me partnership. I also need to work on my hours and prove to my partners I am worthy of this role and take the firm’s financial needs seriously. I need to start with the basics. I need to make sure I am doing what I need to do to hit my hourly targets on a monthly basis. I work at a small firm and am lucky I only need to bill 1,200 hours to make my goal. That is 4.9 hours per day (5-day week) over 49 weeks a year (3 weeks of vacation). I know that during my trial-heavy weeks, I will bill more, but I still need to make sure I am getting in at least 5 billables a day, so I know I am on track. I will stop procrastinating on those projects I hate working on at work and turn off all social media. Every morning, I will start with the one task I do not want to do. I know I want to work on my relationships with _______ (see above), and I know I need to get my work done; therefore, I will not waste my precious time at work dilly-dallying and instead will focus on a written to-do list each day. I will also set a goal of one networking event each month where I will not allow myself to chat with my friends until I meet at least 2 new people and exchange information with them. I will set a reminder on my calendar to check in on my hours each day, week, and month. I will also write a written reminder on all of my networking events to talk to 2 new people.
Example: I have been with this firm for a long time, and there are things I want to change about the way I approach my practice, and I don’t see that happening if I stay put. I also see how much money I bring into my firm, and I feel like I am not getting my fair share. If I am going to work this hard, I want to see my family directly benefit. I have thought about going solo, but am torn amongst feelings of staying put because I have worked so hard to get to where I am here, jumping ship and trying out a new firm, or plunging in and going for it, but I am scared. I saw that my colleague is running a course called a “Going Solo Workshop,” which will address all of these fears in my head. It starts next week. I do have the 6 Wednesday evenings free with everything shutting down again. I think this is my time to get intentional and see if I have what it takes. Taking this workshop is simply a baby step in the right direction to see what is next. I can do this, and the investment is small. I will sign up for this; what is the worst that can happen? At the very least, I will know what I need to do next and get off the hamster wheel of worry and indecisiveness. I will book this right now and block out my Wednesday evenings.
Note: I could go on and on within this topic and spend a decent amount of time here in my life coaching and law firm consulting work. I don’t want to give away all of my secrets, but some nuggets are there. If you are ready to unpack those further, book a call with me to get started! Or, sign up for my Going Solo Course. If you have read this far, I dare you to believe that something is nudging you to take the first step.
- Am I treating my body right? How am I fueling myself daily? Am I eating whole foods or getting by on sugar and snacks? Am I fooling myself and telling myself veggie straws are healthy because they have the word veggie in them?
- Am I working out? Am I moving for 30 minutes a day?
- Am I giving myself time to unwind and destress?
- How are my good habits affecting me? What can I do to keep them?
- How are my bad habits affecting me? Is it so bad I don’t even want to go in for an annual physical?
- How can I remind myself of this?
Example: I try to workout and try to eat clean. However, if I actually tracked it, I realize that while I get in 2 runs a week and eat healthy only sometimes, I am also decompressing in an unhealthy way, relying on wine and bourbon and undoing all of my good work. When I drink at night, I forego my workout. I have not even thought about meditation as a way to unwind – it sounds too woo woo. However, I know if I keep going like this, I will continue to gain weight and feel icky, and I am ready to approach this year differently and with less stress. I will cut out drinking on weekdays; I am going to workout first thing every morning before I can think of anything else like that blog I recently read suggested. I am going to start small with these 2 steps. While meditation sounds scary, I think I can begin to add some yoga to my routine and try to lean deep into that last pose they call Shavasana; it is a start, right? I am going to set 3 alarms right now for my weekdays. One at 6 PM to remind me I want to feel fantastic tomorrow (aka no booze), one at 9 PM to tell me to go to bed/get ready for bed, and one at 6 AM to wake up and workout. I am going to make this reoccurring. I will take note of the days I follow this and feel amazing. I will jot down those notes and add them to my 6 PM alarm so my future self will thank me. I am also going to take note of the mornings I wake up and feel icky.
Note: I have worked with folks on this issue for years. I am here when you are ready to get intentional and have already enjoyed working with many of you to get healthy! I firmly believe these 2 actions are the cornerstones to all of it (going to bed and working out). Once those two things snap in place, the rest of everything else is so much easier. I encourage you to start with something small and note how you feel every morning when you wake up, thinking about your choices the night before. If you have any interest in being in my online accountability health and wellness group, please fill out this form.
- Am I actually doing something I love that is for me?
- Do I have a hobby? What did I use to like to do? What do I wish I could do more of? What makes me smile?
- What events do I want to go to? What looks really fun, but I am sort of nervous to go?
- Where do I want to travel? What sort of travel will make me feel alive as a human being?
- Am I surrounding myself with the people I actually want to be with? Who do I want to know better?
Example: I get so wrapped up in being a lawyer and a mom, don’t even know what I like anymore. Before life got so hectic, I really enjoyed cooking and making meals for my friends. I would love to sign up for a cooking class. I also would love to have small gatherings again and see friends that I would like to get to know better. I remember when my parents had dinner parties, and everyone would hang around the table laughing, talking, and not leaving until late at night. I realize I am now at the age they were when that happened and want to start that too. I am going to research one-day cooking classes that look fun. I plan to have a dinner party every other month and invite friends whom I think will get along to come. I will look at my calendar right now and pick 6 weekends over the next year that I can plan now and make sure I have the weekends marked off. I am ready to choose how I fill my weekend time rather than have invitations from others take over what I really want to do/spend another weekend on the couch with a “movie night” because we were too tired to think of anything else.
Note: While the other examples above were largely fictional and based on my work with others, this one is me and on my list for 2022.
If you are too busy to do the homework and thought processes above as you are reading this, I ask that you come back to this. Even better, I encourage you to buy a copy of the book #FutureBoards and follow the exercises and do the work. Many of the lawyers I work with at the top of their game do these exercises yearly. The success you see in others didn’t “just happen.” Success was not given to them; success didn’t fall in their lap; that person didn’t wake up one day, and everything just clicked. For the person you see whom you admire in your field, that person did the work. They had a vision, figured out small steps to move them in the right direction, and didn’t stop taking them. That person cloaked themselves in resources, accountability, and mindset work. Are you ready to be that person?
What part of future-casting for 2022 excites you the most? Start there! If you are up for it, I would love to hear about your plans for 2022 below!
This post contains Amazon affiliate links where it references the book #FutureBoards.