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When Perfectionism Becomes a Problem for Lawyers

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When Perfectionism Becomes a Problem for Lawyers

The desire to achieve is one of the traits that we learn as law students and which motivates us as lawyers. This mindset creates a culture of competition in which we are always pushing ourselves to do more and be better than others. Striving for perfection can be a lawyer’s best motivator or worst enemy. This course explores the difference between high achievers and perfectionists and the role that stress and anxiety play in both. Dr. Patti offers unique insights to equip lawyers with valuable resources to aid them in striking a healthy balance between work and wellness while developing strategies for success.

Transcript

Hi everyone. My name is Dr. Patti McCartney. I am a board-certified naturopathic doctor an animal naturopathic doctor, a holistic healthcare practitioner, a corporate wellness coach, and a licensed Texas attorney. I'm also the founder of thelawyer-doctor.net which is a company that offers lawyer coaching in the form of micro videos as well as online coaching services in various areas including cognitive behavior therapy. Today we're going to be discussing when perfectionism becomes a problem for lawyers. And let's begin by looking at our learning objectives, which include discovering the different types of perfectionism and what each of them means, and understanding how to reframe your aim from perfectionism to excellence in your legal practice. We're also going to look at learning what role nutrition can play in feeding your mindset as well as your emotions. Discovering techniques, tips and tools that can help you achieve balance in lawyering. And finally, we're gonna cover some coping skills that empower you to overcome problematic lawyer perfectionism. As lawyers, we're trained to strive to be the best. This mindset creates a culture of competitors and as a result, we are always striving to do more and be better than those around us. That's a mindset we developed in law school that we carry forward into our practice. After all, we wanna be that associate that excels, that associate that stands out, that gets promoted to a higher position and one day makes partner or own your, or going on to own your own firm and excelling at that. We understand this mindset. This is what helps us reach our goals and achieve even more within our profession. However, seeking perfectionism can be a lawyer's best motivator or our worst enemy, and we're going to explore that a little bit further in this presentation. If left untempered perfectionism can become destructive, whereas it can help motivate us and increase our performance, it can also destroy us, define our self-worth, occupy our thoughts, shake our focus, and lead to the point of debility or even worse. So we're going to look at some of the traits that perfectionistic lawyers may possess. The all-or-nothing thinking. Being highly critical. As lawyers, there's a saying that the more skeptical we are, the more successful we are. And I really disagree with that. I think an honest skepticism in our profession is a good thing. However, if we find ourselves overly critical for ourselves and others, that can become detrimental in our professional and personal lives. Feeling pushed by fear. If you're motivated by fear, the fear of not succeeding or not reaching that high mark that you set for yourself, that can become exhausting and draining. Having unrealistic standards, it's great to wanna aim high, to wanna reach the pinnacle of your professional career or to stand out in your practice or in your area of law. But if you find yourself setting expectations or standards that are impossible for anybody to meet, that's a warning sign. Focusing only on results. Life is a journey and we can often get locked into our mindset of, I just have to accomplish this. I just need to finish this case. I just need to meet this deadline. And we lose ourselves in the process of doing that. And we still a lot of the joy and the learning and the productivity that comes from allowing the process to unfold. Also, feeling depressed by unmet goals. Going back to the idea, if you're setting the bar so high that nobody can possibly meet it much less you, then you're going to find yourself feeling let down. And that can result in depression, which is something nobody wants. You've already accomplished a lot by reaching this point in your life. So having a healthy balance is something I hope we're going to be able to or I can effectively communicate to you to encourage you to do more in the area of acceptance of your strengths and your weaknesses, knowing that's what got you here and that's what will propel you onward, rather than setting a bar too high for you to meet. Fear of failure. We all have a fear of failing, but there's a point where that fear can go from healthy to unhealthy. Procrastination. And we'll explore all of these topics a little bit further in the presentation. We all understand what procrastinating means. And defensiveness. There's a point where constructive criticism is accepted but, and should be accepted, but we can find ourselves getting defensive over feedback from a judge or in response to the opposing counsel's reply to a brief or response to a brief or even a client's feedback. And guarding against defensiveness is one of the ways that we can excel and try to resist the temptation for perfectionism. And also low self-esteem. Again, if we set the bar so high, if we're pushing ourselves, if we're driven by fear of failure, that can take a toll and it can show up in multiple areas, both physically and mentally. And one of those areas is low self-esteem. Again, give yourself some grace. You worked hard to get here. And you've accomplished a lot just by being on the other end of this recording, able to listen to it or this video, just being part of the legal profession. So give yourself a pat on the back for reaching this level of success. Setting the standard. Perfectionistic lawyers set their own standards. We get to define our own goals. Once we've reached this and we've passed the bar and we've gotten a job or in the legal profession, we get to set our own standards and define our own goals. Even if you have a job that you don't love right now, you get to decide who you wanna be as a lawyer, where you wanna go in the legal profession. And because of that, we can tend to, again, set standards that are unreachable and that's something we have to guard against. This can lead to feelings again, of fear, of shame, inadequacy, worthlessness, embarrassment. If you find yourself having these emotional reactions on a regular basis, consider speaking to somebody because these are warning signs that maybe your need for perfectionism is a little bit off balance. The good news is it's always easy to rectify and get back on track, but it is certainly always important to talk to a coach, reach out or make the adjustments within yourself so you can excel. Let's look at some additional points to consider here. And an individual lawyer in this case can be a perfectionist in one area but not another. So you may be saying to yourself, I can't be a perfectionist because I don't care if my room is clean or I am pretty easygoing in this area of my life, but that's not the test. You can be completely flexible in one area of your life and an absolute perfectionist in your professional career. So keep that in mind. And there are different factors that weigh into making us perfectionists. It's not just law school, although for many of us that is a primary factor, but also your upbringing. If you were in a home environment where you were pushed to always be the best, or genetics, believe it or not, genetics actually do play a part in that. The environment that you grew up in or that you find yourself in now, the peers you surround yourself with, and your lifestyle choices, all of these can weigh into perfectionistic behaviors. And again, there's good perfectionism and there's negative perfectionism. Primarily we're focusing on the negative perfectionism here when it becomes a problem. Perfectionism behaviors, and this can also be perfectionistic behaviors, however you wanna see it, but behaviors exhibited by perfectionists can be divided into different groups. There's the active behaviors which can include excessive checking. So if you're constantly looking at your calendar on your iPhone to see, did I meet that deadline? Or looking at your notes, did I file that? Am I on track where I should be? Or excessive organizing. If you organize to the point to where it's obsessive, then maybe you're trying to tell yourself something. Maybe you're misapplying that energy in a way that you should think of re-shifting and refocusing. We all want to be organized, but there's a point where it can become excessive and then it's counterproductive to your productivity and your energy level and your success. List making. Now, list making is one of those topics that can go both ways. So as a cognitive wellness coach and even as an naturopathic doctor, I encourage patients, members, clients, depending on the hat I'm wearing to make certain lists if it helps them become more focused. So list making is not necessarily a bad thing. If you're a person out there who likes making lists and it helps you focus or stay on track, that's great. There are times that it can be an incredibly productive process. However, if you are obsessive about making lists where everything you do in life has to be part of a list, then you're trying to control the situation to the point of meeting your criteria within your list. At that point, you may wanna take a step back and think, is this something I wanna change? Maybe I wanna dedicate less effort or less focus on the importance of lists. And if you need to, that might be beneficial to speak to somebody else about. Also correcting others. Again, constructive criticism is always good, and a good rule for that is you don't wanna say to somebody else what you wouldn't want them to say to you. We don't wanna apply a standard to others that we don't wanna apply to us. But it can get very easy, especially as lawyers, we've accomplished certain goals and for some of us we've excelled higher than others of us and that may give us a sense of, in some cases, a sense of perhaps superiority or a sense of overconfidence to the point of correcting others. And this can play havoc in your personal relationships as well as your professional relationships. So again, pointing out something constructively is not what we're talking about. Feeling the need to constantly correct others. Again, you may wanna take a step back and think, hmm, but I want somebody doing that to me? And is this really a healthy behavior either personally or professionally? This may not be the thing that gets you invited to the Christmas parties, okay? This may not make you the most popular lawyer in the office if you find the need to constantly correct others, but it also may take a toll on you. So keep that in mind. Lawyer avoidance behaviors. Examples of avoidance behaviors. Remember these are one of the areas that we talked about as far as behaviors perfectionists can show. So avoidance behaviors can include procrastination. I mentioned we would explore this a little bit further and here we are. Delaying a deadline until right before it's due. Most of us as lawyers, based on my experience professionally as a lawyer, and now in coaching is we tend to procrastinate. We juggle a lot and we put off till the last minute what we know we can, it creates a tremendous amount of stress. But also it can become a flag that we are avoiding the obligations. And again, that can lead to more destructive behavior. And from a professional responsibility standpoint, it can create traps for us. If we wait till the last minute and all of a sudden you're sick or a family member has an emergency, you're gonna find yourself on the phone asking opposing counsel or the court clerk or a client for an extension. And you don't wanna have to be in that situation if you don't need to be. Sometimes things happen. And you can't do anything about that. I was actually scheduled in to appear for a hearing after one Thanksgiving and the day before that Thanksgiving my dad died and I had to call the court and contact my client at the last minute. Things happen. The court understood, my client understood, that was a family emergency, but I would not wanna be on that end or in that position if it came as a result of procrastination. So again, it's all about balance. As a naturopathic doctor, which is focused on overall wellness and we look at root cause issues, we also look at balance, overall balance in our lives and our lifestyles. And that's what I'm trying to encourage you to do here. Perfectionism is great as long as we keep everything in check and in balance. The moment we lose balance, we can run into problems and none of us wanna see that happen. Giving up too soon. This can be if you have a client call you or a potential client call or someone come in or a partner ask you to research something and you just glance at it, do a quick online search and say, okay, there's no claim there. That's an example, or no, I don't think we have a case. And in doing that, you can not only set yourself up for professional liability, if there's a situation where you've encouraged someone not to pursue a legal right where they've had and they've lost somehow based on a statute of limitations or something like that. Or just the fact that you've let yourself down if nothing else, and you've let perhaps somebody else down too. So again, this is the tendency to give up too soon. It doesn't mean that if you do your due diligence and hey, there's not a case there, there's no claim, that's fine. We all understand that. But you don't wanna be that lawyer who is just in that mindset of I can't deal with this. I'm overwhelmed. And I'm just going to say, no, there's no case here. No, there's no claim. Or you're giving up too soon in fighting on a claim or pursuing discovery or any way you can apply this to your own life in your own practice. Again, these are just broad applications and broad examples, but you can apply them to your own life and your own practice and say, hey, do I give up too soon? Is this me? If not, great. If so, then that's a point of reflection and something that thankfully you can quickly and easily resolve. Also, avoiding tasks. You're afraid you can't do adequately for fear of disappointing somebody, in this case, disappointing a client or a managing or senior partner. Aside from the professional liability implications that can come in, you don't wanna be that lawyer, and you don't wanna set yourself up with that kind of a reputation that you don't go for everything you can in a case, that you don't give it your best. We've taken on the commitment, the obligation, and the responsibility to zealously represent our clients. Now, I totally get it. There are days you're not gonna feel like zealously representing anybody, but that's our overall obligation. And there are days that we're going to have 110% to give and there are other days that we're going to be lacking due to fatigue or whatever. But overall we need to say is this something not a one-off, is this the way that I'm viewing my practice in general? None of these are one-off examples. They're all about patterns of behavior that you can look at and say, is that me? Does any of that apply to me? And if so, again, there are some steps that hopefully at the end of this presentation you'll understand you can take. And then also if you feel the need or think it would be beneficial to reach out to somebody, my site is designed as a platform. So lawyers can go on and get self-help through micro videos. But also there's coaching services I offer them, several other coaches offer them. So it's really dependent on what you want. And there's also an issue I wanna address here with regard to lawyers being afraid of reaching out for help for fear of the stigmatization. And I think I touch up on, or touch on that a little bit later in the presentation. But again, there are options that you can seek without worrying about something being formally reported. That was my motivation in creating my platform because there are so many lawyers that don't want help, or need help but don't wanna risk getting help for fear of professional pushback. I don't think that's quite the issue that so many lawyers think it is, but just, know, not simply through my platform, but in general, there are always options available for you. You don't have to navigate the practice of law by yourself. It wasn't meant to be. It's the profession. So there are a lot of us in this camp under this umbrella who are here to help and to provide resources for you anywhere along the line that you feel like you may need some. And if not, awesome. That's great. Okay, now let's look at the three types of perfectionism. Most people don't know when we're talking on the subject of perfectionism, that there's actually more than one type of perfectionist. And again, this goes back to the idea that there is the good, healthy perfectionist. And then there's the perfectionist that could use some help. And that could use, the outlook could use a little bit of work. We're gonna start off with the healthy outlook and that is the adaptive perfectionist. This is the person who is the healthy lawyer. This is the one who is wanting to achieve and is a high achiever, sets goals, but understands I'm not perfect. I don't have to win every case. I don't have to be on the cover of Super Lawyers. As long as I do my best and my clients are happy and I've met my professional obligations, then that's enough, my best is enough. And it's important that we all understand, the best, our best is all we can give. We're not held to somebody else's standard. We're only held to our own. And if somebody else tries to hold us to some other standard, that's on them, you can only do your best and it's worked for you. Again, you got here, you're succeeding now. So don't set the bar higher than what you can reach. And that is the adaptive lawyer, that is the adaptive perfectionist, the happy lawyer who understands as long as I'm doing my best, that's enough. That's all that can be asked of me. And I'm going to give my best and that 100% every time. And that will be good enough. It has to be good enough. We can't give more than what we have. Maladaptive perfectionists. Sadly, this is where so many lawyers run afoul. And this is the view that we have expectations that are so high, we've set impossible standards for ourselves. And no matter what we accomplish, we're always feeling like we've let ourselves or others down. And that results in us berating ourselves, constantly analyzing, ruminating over what we did or should have done or how we failed somebody. And constantly feeling like a failure. That is not healthy. Life doesn't have to be that way, and practicing law doesn't have to be that way. And it shouldn't be that way. But again, there are steps along the way that have set us up for that type of mindset if we don't guard ourselves against them or if we haven't guarded ourselves against them beginning from law school up to this point. So again, give yourself some grace, catch yourself some slack. Understand that you're probably hitting it out of the park every time. I'm sure you're doing an awesome job and I'm sure your clients see that. And if you're with the firm or an agency, your managers, peers, supervisors, partners are seeing that as well. Trust yourself, trust your instincts. Set goals that are reachable. And you will succeed. Nonperfectionists. This is the opposite of what I was just talking about with regard to setting expectations so high for yourself. This is where you're holding other people to preset expectations. And we all know people like this. It's like they already have some model that you're supposed to fit into, some image, some template that you're supposed to be able to match. And if you fall short of that, then somehow you're a failure. You don't wanna be that person. You don't wanna have that outlook in your profession with regard to your clients or peers or others or even with regard to your personal life and your relationships. So that's why I use the word tempering because it's all about balance. And all of us have bad days and we all have bad moods and we all have moments in time where we're not at our best, our attitude isn't our best. And again, that's not what I'm talking about. These are not one-offs, these are not occasional bad days. These are mindsets that if you find yourself here in this mindset on a perpetual basis, then think about what steps you can take. And no, it doesn't have to be that way. I wanna give an example here. If you've listened to some of my other courses, you may have heard me use this example before. And this involves Gabriel MacConaill. He was a bankruptcy lawyer and partner at Sidley Austin. And he worked out of their Los Angeles office. On Sunday, October 14th, 2018 according to MacConail's wife, who was also a lawyer, he received an email at home, he left his wife, he patted his dog, kissed his wife and left home, drove to his office parking garage and pulled out a gun and committed suicide. He shot himself in the head. Following his death, his wife started looking at signs that may have been there that she missed. And as anybody would, could stand back and say, maybe I missed this sign, should I have picked up on that? In doing research, she discovered the concept of maladaptive perfectionism and recognized symptoms in her late husband. And sadly, by the time she realized this, of course he had already committed suicide, so it was too late. One of the processes that his wife had in dealing with his loss and also in educating so many of us in the profession is she wrote an article called "Big Law Killed My Husband", I believe that's what it's called. You can do an online search, I apologize, the link's not here. But in that article, she details events for her husband. Really the last month or so, he was working on a big mattress company bankruptcy, I don't know if it was Mattress Firm or Mattress Giant. And at his firm in Los Angeles, one of his mentors had left the firm, I believe he retired. There were some shifts in personnel there and he started feeling all alone. And he felt like no matter what he did, he would be fired from his job as soon as the bankruptcy of this big client was over. And little did he know that he was actually a star employee and his impression of himself was so different from what the firm partners had. Even the the summer associates who he oversaw the associate program of, or the summer clerk program, he oversaw that. And those clerks learned so much from him, but he felt like a failure. He had set the bar so high for himself. And at one point that shortly before his death on a Sunday night, he was at the office and his wife called him checking in on him, 'cause he had been there all day and into the night. And he actually told her he felt like his body was shutting down on him and like he was, he was in trouble. So his wife drove to pick him up and they were headed to the ER when he told her, you know, if I go to the ER, this will end my legal career. And again, this is all according to what she stated in this article and not knowing what to do, she called another attorney that he worked with and asked if she had noticed anything. And after speaking with that other attorney, they made the decision not to go to the ER. Again for fear that this would hurt him professionally. So she drove her husband home, he got some rest, hydrated, he ended up flying out to Delaware shortly thereafter to make the bankruptcy filing. And sadly, poignantly, after that filing was made, the wife sent clippings to loved ones family members saying, this is the case that is killing my husband. And there were other signs, other symptoms that in that situation, it's hard to pick up on, especially if you don't know what maladaptive perfectionism is. But the point is, this unhealthy form of perfectionism is based on standards that are so high, they're impossible to attain. And if we allow ourselves to get hung up on this standard, just as Gabriel did in this sad example, then it becomes self-defeating. And we don't realize that we can end up robbing ourselves and our profession and in his case, robbing the planet of the gifts and benefits of our lives and of our legal skills. So I include this in a couple of presentations that I talk about maladaptive perfectionism simply because it is heart-wrenching, and the reality is we can do better. Our profession over the last three decades has been in a state of ongoing mental distress. And we don't have to be that profession. We don't have to be those lawyers. We can do better. That's why many of us have gone into the wellness side of the legal profession. And those of us who are here understand there's a lot we can do. And we take this on because we wanna help the profession turn things around. We wanna be part of the new paradigm where lawyers can excel and know that there's help and have more of a balanced approach, and love the law rather than want to leave the law. So let's look at our professional responsibilities. I've already talked about those, but I've included one specific rule here, which I think is applicable, and that is ABA Model Rule 1.16 which requires that a lawyer shall withdraw from a representation if the lawyer's physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer's ability to represent the client. You may say, this is not me. And how can this possibly apply to wanting to be a perfectionist? Again, if you are out of balance, you're not able to devote your full attention, your full cognitive abilities to doing your job at an optimal level, to being your best. So this is just a reminder that we have an obligation not just to zealously represent our clients, but also to withdraw or step back if we're not able to meet our professional obligations, especially if it's a result of something where we know we have an area of our mental wellness that needs addressing. And again, I completely understand this is a hard topic, especially for young lawyers to think you're out there, you're killing it, you're nailing it, you're doing your best, you've just gotten into the profession, you're young, but the grind can get to you quickly if you don't have that balance. And it gets very easy to be thrown out of balance. So just be mindful of that. And understand that it's more important that we devote the necessary time and attention to prevent or resolve perfection issues than that we put on a brave face or try and seem like we have everything together all the time if we don't, because then they can get out of control. Let's look at the self-oriented lawyer. The self-oriented lawyer is one of the topics under perfectionism. And it just means that in order for you to stay true to your deepest or your core belief systems, it's important that you know what it is and where it comes from. In other words, who are you now? I've talked in another presentation, if you've watched some of my others, about the perception that we have in law school and how studies show that many of us have different perceptions once we actually get into the practice of law. And we need to be able to reconcile those and understand that the practice of law is going to be more than what we ever expected it to be and in some cases different than what we expected it to be. But we will get more out of it based on what we're able to put into it from a healthy, balanced perspective. So again, who are you? What are your core values? What were they coming into the profession? Are they still there? If not, hmm, maybe you can tweak them, figure out which balance you need to adjust and which person more closely aligns with who you want to be. Is it the person in law school? Is it the person now? That mindset, that attitude, that behavior, those core values, and if your core values have changed, why have they changed and what exactly has changed? These are all concepts that we explore in cognitive behavior therapy, but they're also concepts you can look at on a daily basis and say, am I happy where I'm at? I understand young lawyers, you're paying your dues. I completely get that. But it doesn't mean you have to be miserable if you're miserable, it doesn't mean that you have to settle for less than enjoyment in what you're doing. And if you don't have that, find ways to strike balance and we'll talk about that. And if we don't reach those, they're certainly in the PowerPoint presentation that you have access to. So by all means, read through those and if you have any questions at any point, feel free to reach out to me, ask me any questions, send me an email, I love doing this. I love being a lawyer. I love helping lawyers. I hope that comes across. So self-oriented perfectionists are those that usually project more positivity and motivation. All of these traits can lead to more successful personal and professional lives. Again, the practice of law doesn't have to take all of you. It doesn't have to encompass who you are. You don't have to lose yourself in the practice of law. You can stay true to yourself and accomplish your goals. We'll explore that a little bit more as we go along. I just wanna encourage you to hold to your core values, because so often I see when lawyers start pulling away from those is when they get into trouble and when they can get into more destructive and distressful mindsets and behaviors. The other-oriented lawyer. This version of perfectionists again, is the one who holds others to high standards and can be critical and judgmental. We've already briefly talked on this type of lawyer. The problems in addition to what we've discussed include the fact that this often is characterized by interpersonal conflict. So not only do you tend to be the overlay critical person to others, but it starts impacting your relationships because you don't wanna be around somebody who's overly critical to you. And in our professional lives, just like in law school, we may have been or may be subject to those who are out there and are overly critical. You may have a peer or a supervisor or a partner, any form of a boss that you may think is overly critical and there's a point where that's constructive. And then there's a point where it can start waning on you or wearing down your self-esteem. Don't let that happen. And if you feel like it is, then consider some of the tips that I'm giving you in this presentation. And again, feel free to reach out whether it's to me or to somebody else to try and get some help with that before it does become destructive. We've already seen an example of a case here where the situation got out of hand. And we don't want any more Gabriel MacConaills in the profession. We don't, in the sense of what he, how he handled his perfectionism at a maladaptive approach. But we do want plenty of Gabriel MacConaills in the profession who are able to succeed and accomplish. And when I read his story, let me just say my heart breaks because I think this is the very type of lawyer I would love to be able to help. And unfortunately none of us in the wellness arena could reach out or were able to reach out. So we wanna help all of those in the future. In the present and in the future that can benefit from that. So just FYI, keep that in mind. And the socially prescribed perfectionist. This is the most self-critical. Again, this is the maladaptive. This is where you're always under tremendous pressure. As lawyers in the legal profession, we feel the pressure. It's there constantly. Pressure from clients who may have unrealistic expectations that we may have to sit down and kind of recalibrate their expectations in a professional way, but also make sure that they have a realistic expectation of what can and cannot be done. And keeping those client communications going can be beneficial for that. But also if we have partners or those around us, colleagues, anyone in our life or even feel like society in general is putting more pressure on us, again, we can start to falter under that pressure. And that pressure may not always be the way that we perceive it. So there may be a difference between perception and reality here, and that's also where it's beneficial to reach out and talk to somebody so that you can hopefully gain some balance in the process. A lawyer with this form of perfectionism tends to experience a lack of confidence which can cause or contribute to anxiety. Anxiety is linked with maladaptive perfectionism. So anxiety is something that is another pitfall of the practice, but it's something that again, we can guard against and we have measures to help adjust and bounce back from or respond to. Anxiety doesn't have to be the coat that we put on every day to go to work. It doesn't have to be like our briefcase or for women, our purse, something that goes with us everywhere. We can part ways with anxiety or we can keep it in balance and there are tools that thankfully we now know we can utilize. Okay, so Dr. Randy Frost in 1990 created what is now known as the Frost Multidimensional Scale to measure perfectionism. I included this here because it's an inventory that consists of 35 questions. And this inventory has gained wide-ranging acceptance and recognition based on its thoroughness and effectiveness. So if you wanna do a self-assessment to see where you are on the perfectionism scale, I've included the link here to click on and on your own time, whenever it's convenient, and you feel like going through it, if you feel like going through it, then you may certainly do so and then reevaluate where you're at on that and perhaps where you find you may be able to improve or adjust or achieve a little bit more balance in your attitudes, outlooks, behaviors, so forth. How goals affect lawyer wellbeing. Again, we all understand goals, we're goal-driven. If we weren't goal-driven, we would've never gone to law school. If we weren't goal-driven, we would've never passed the bar and we certainly wouldn't be practicing within a very demanding profession. So we've already established in our lives by being here that we're goal-oriented. And most of us have goals. And if you don't know what your goals are clearly stated, I wanna encourage you to just open the notes section on your phone, and just start putting my goals are. My goals are within a year, my goals are within five years to be X, to do Y, to accomplish Z, or A, B, C, whatever, and know what those are because once you clearly define those goals, it's easier to stay on track and hopefully keep those goals within balance, but not to the point to where those goals become obsessive. And that's not what you want. You want your goals to be the high-mark, but also set goals that are realistic, that are not overly ambitious so that they don't put too much strain on you, or too much stress on you where you feel like you're having to push yourself 80 hour work weeks to reach a certain goal or a certain accomplishment or a certain level of income or whatever is not sustainable long-term. That's one thing we've learned through all of the research that the ABA has done, other organizations have done. Again, the three decades worth of research. We know that our current pace is not sustainable. As young lawyers, you may be working a lot and paying your dues, but it's up to you to make sure that you're staying mentally healthy as well as physically well and that you have those boundaries set up so that you can pace yourself for the long haul. And we know that a sense of wellbeing can change at any point based on a variety of circumstances. That's what I was saying with regard to pacing yourself. You may have to work an 80-hour week or work several 80-hour weeks. Not that 80-hour week should ever be encouraged, but you may be putting in extra time right now on a particular case or to reach a particular goal or deadline. But make sure that you're not trading your health or your mental wellness for that achievement because there are always other options. Even if it doesn't seem like there are, there are other options. And you don't wanna lose that balance, that will be much harder to get back. Certainly if you get to the point to where you don't even recognize that you've lost the balance. Okay, the benefits of goals. Here's some good stuff. We all understand the benefits of goals. Again, we got here because of our goals. And we understand the appreciation and the satisfaction that comes from setting goals, such as achieving what we have and feeling that sense of accomplishment. And these goals positively influence our wellbeing and they need to positively influence our wellbeing. So those are the healthy goals. Sadly, the opposite is true when they become unhealthy. So perfectionism can hijack our goals by shaking our core values and causing us to doubt ourselves and our goals. That's not a place we wanna be. And if it is, it's not a place we wanna stay. We can work around this by redefining our goals and even consider breaking them down into little bite-size pieces. So set smaller goals. If you have huge goals that seem insurmountable and are causing stress and anxiety, consider pairing 'em down, breaking 'em down in smaller goals, and then you'll have more of the sense of achievement of what you're accomplishing. So that's just a tip to help you, because we know that perfectionism can create a vicious cycle. And that cycle can result in stress and anxiety and even depression. And each of these can contribute to perfectionism, and in turn, perfectionism can contribute to each of these conditions. So to compound the cycle even further, each of these conditions contributes even more to problematic perfectionism. Therefore, no discussion about perfectionism can be complete without addressing other mental conditions that may be interrelated, such as chronic stress, such as anxiety, such as depression. So be mindful that as you're reaching and striving for more and you're setting your goals, if you feel chronically stressed or anxiety has overtaken your daily mindset, or even if you're at the point of feeling depression, then step back, adjust where you can, and seek assistance, find a coach, get some input to get back on balance so that you can break that vicious cycle. The longer it goes, the harder it is, and the more of you it takes. And nothing should take more of you than you're able to give and then you want to give. Okay, the role of lawyer CBT. I mentioned that cognitive behavior therapy is a focus of my practice. I love cognitive behavior therapy. For those of you who are so inclined, I am doing a separate CLE on this topic through Quimbee and it will be available in the near future and it focuses in-depth on this topic. But let me just say cognitive behavior therapy is one of the most successful and one of the most popular forms of therapy. And it is a form of talk therapy. One of the reasons it is so beneficial for lawyers is because it uses a rational approach to address mental conditions and it has a problem-solving component that is the focus is solving problems. As lawyers, we understand solving problems, that's what we do for a living. So if we can incorporate that into our mindset and if we need a form of therapy that can utilize that skillset and play on those strengths, CBT is a great way to go. So CBT focuses on identifying and reframing cognitive behaviors that contribute to the problem rather than those that initially caused the problem. The CBT treatment includes focusing on your strengths, improving your self-esteem if that's an issue, and where it needs to be improved. And practicing a more rational approach to thinking. CBT therapy includes assigned homework. And I know you're thinking I'm already overworked. What are you talking about homework? Well, this is part of the process. It's not overwhelming, but it does help you work through some of the issues that are holding you back professionally. So this homework will help you do your professional work better by realigning and addressing the issues that may be holding you back from performing at an optimal level. And it has been proven to be very successful even in online therapy. And that's what I offer. I offer through the micro videos and also virtual therapy for lawyers, again, protecting privacy, respecting time, understanding, and there are a lot of us who do that. So just know there are options that you don't have to go to a psychiatrist or a psychologist just if you're filling out a balance, there are much more rational, practical, problem-solving scenarios and options and approaches available to you. CBT does not involve prescription medication. It is very short in duration. The average CBT timeline is 12 to 20 sessions. So it doesn't take more of your time than you're going to be able to give as a lawyer, but it will help you redefine and fine-tune the areas that need to be finely tuned. So one of the biggest things is confronting cognitive distortions. And again, we've talked about those where you have this unhealthy idea of who you are or how your practice is going or what your clients think of you, or even in what your professional peers or those in leadership over you, whether it be a supervisor or managing partner, senior partner, whatever the case may be. This helps you reshape those into more realistic approaches and more realistic thoughts and reframing your aim. Again, this is taking your quest for success and reprioritizing it where it's not this all or nothing mindset, but it's more rational and pragmatic and practical in the way that you're solving problems in your own life and in your profession. This will help you not just succeed, but thrive more as a lawyer. So these are all tips to help you achieve and again, retune or refine where you notice that there are areas out of balance. And just bear in mind that perfectionism is a common precursor to burnout, which is one of the greatest problems of our profession. Excellence versus perfectionism. Let me quickly point out here. A University of Canada, Ottawa study, actually a couple of studies were done showing the difference between perfectionism and excellence. I encourage all lawyers to shift your focus from perfectionism to one of excellence. And we all strive for excellence. And that is, again, doing our best, being the best version of ourselves professionally, but understanding that's the best who we can be. That's the best we are. Not the best somebody else wants us to be, not setting the bar at a destructive level. I've included a link here for you to check out if you wanna learn more about the difference between excellence and perfectionism. I've also included some information about natural therapies, simple nutrients and nutritional changes you can make, vitamins and minerals that can help you in lowering your stress, in reducing anxiety because yes, there can be a physical component and some natural therapies here as well. Some coping strategies are also included. And the biggest and the most important I wanna say, is practice self-compassion. Again, give yourself some grace. You've accomplished a lot to get here. There are some techniques, tips and tools, some of what we've discussed, others I've included here for you to consider. And the key takeaways which include the fact that as lawyers, we must accept that cases, clients and circumstances are never gonna be perfect. We're not perfect, we're never gonna be, and we don't have to be. That's okay. If anybody expects that, that's something, that's a mark they've set, not a mark we've set that we have to achieve. A healthy mind is a must for us to function at our best, both professionally and personally. And it is up to us to achieve and maintain that. You can't give that right to somebody else, nor would you want to, that's yours. You get to determine that. Depression and anxiety can only exacerbate maladaptive perfectionism and vice versa. So if you feel overly anxious or you're experiencing depression, be mindful of that. And again, self-compassion is critical to maintaining mental wellness. I have included my contact information. It is my absolute joy and pleasure and privilege to speak to you today. Thank you so much. And if there's anything I've said here that helps benefit you any way, I'm so grateful for the opportunity. I love the profession of law. I'm passionate about helping others, and I hope there's something that you glean from here that you can take on into your day and into your practice. So until next time, take care and be well.

Presenter(s)

PM
Patti McCartney
Attorney
DrPattiMcCartney.com

Credit information

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    Alaska
    • 1.0 ethics
    December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
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    • 1.0 professional responsibility
    December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
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    • 1.0 ethics
    Pending
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    • 1.0 ca competence - wellness
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        • 1.0 mental illness awareness
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        December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
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        • 1.0 ethics
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        December 22, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Approved
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          • 1.0 attorney wellness
          Pending
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              • 1.0 ethics
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                        • 1.0 ethics
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                        • 1.0 ethics
                        December 31, 2026 at 11:59PM HST Approved
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                        • 1.0 ethics
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                        • 1.2 general
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                          • 1.0 ethics
                          December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Available
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                                    December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST Approved
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                                                  December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

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                                                                  Available until
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                                                                  Not Offered
                                                                  Credits
                                                                  • 1.0 ethics
                                                                  Available until

                                                                  December 31, 2026 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                  Status
                                                                  Approved
                                                                  Credits
                                                                  • 1.0 ethics
                                                                  Available until

                                                                  December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                  Status
                                                                  Available
                                                                  Credits
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                                                                  January 16, 2025 at 11:59PM HST

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                                                                  Approved
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                                                                    • 1.0 ethics
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                                                                    December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

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                                                                    Available
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                                                                    Available until
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                                                                    December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

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                                                                    Available
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                                                                      Credits
                                                                      • 1.0 ethics
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                                                                      Not Offered
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                                                                        • 1.0 ethics
                                                                        Available until
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                                                                              Credits
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                                                                              Available until
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                                                                              Pending
                                                                              Credits
                                                                              • 1.0 ethics
                                                                              Available until
                                                                              Status
                                                                              Unavailable
                                                                              Credits
                                                                              • 1.0 ethics
                                                                              Available until
                                                                              Status
                                                                              Not Offered
                                                                              Credits
                                                                              • 1.0 attorney wellness
                                                                              Available until

                                                                              December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                              Status
                                                                              Approved
                                                                              Credits
                                                                                Available until
                                                                                Status
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                                                                                Credits
                                                                                • 1.0 mental health/substance abuse
                                                                                Available until

                                                                                December 14, 2024 at 11:59PM HST

                                                                                Status
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                                                                                Available until
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