By Wendy Meadows, Esq.
As we settle into a new year, I encourage you to take some time to ask yourself what you want your 2023 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 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 on my way to the long-term ones. From something as simple as finally having peonies in my garden and the color of my front door to things that solidly 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 also 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? 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 able to 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 article and think it is useless to even think about 2023 because who knows what uncertainty this year will bring. It is simply untrue to say you have zero control over 2023. It is extremely unfair to yourself to ignore that little voice that is 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). However, if you are just willing to spend a little bit of time on this exercise (which will still pay off), I am going to simplify it a bit.
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 2023, 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 first at least once a week in an affirmative way. I am going to approach him or her about instituting a weekly date night where we do not talk about work, I do not check my emails, and he/she has my undivided attention. I am going to calendar this right now so it is a reoccurring event on my calendar. I am also going to 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 make sure I am proving 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 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 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 am going to stop procrastinating on those projects I hate working on at work and turn off all social media. I will start every morning 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 will focus on a written to-do list each day. I am also going to 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 am going to set a reminder on my calendar to check in on my hours each day, week, and month. I am also going to write a written reminder on all of my networking events to talk to 2 new people.
Note: I could go on and on within this topic and spend a good 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 there are some nuggets there. If you are ready to unpack those further, reach out to me so we can get started!
- 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 and relying on wine and bourbon and undoing the good work I do other times. When I drink at night, I forego my workout and just say I will get around to it another time. 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 am going to continue to gain weight, feel icky, and I am ready to approach this year differently and with less stress. I am going to cut out booze on weekdays, I am going to workout first thing every morning before I can think of anything else. I am going to start small with these 2 steps. While meditation sounds scary, I think I can start some yoga and try to lean deep into that last pose they call shivasana, it is a start, right? I am going to set 3 alarms right now for my weekdays. One at 6PM to remind myself I want to feel amazing tomorrow (aka no booze), one at 9PM to tell me to go to bed/get ready for bed, and one at 6AM to wake up and workout. I am going to make this reoccurring. I am going to take note of the days I follow this and feel amazing. I am going to jot down those notes and add it 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 been working on this area with folks for years now and could also go on and on about this topic. I am here when you are ready to get intentional and have already had the pleasure of 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 just start with something small and take note of how you feel every morning when you wake up, thinking about your choices the night before.
- 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. If I had the time, I would 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 was happening and want to start that too. I am going to research one-day cooking classes that look fun. I am going to plan on having 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 course of a year that I can plan these and make sure I have them 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 the work I do with others, this one is me!
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. Many of the lawyers I work with who are at the top of their game do this on a yearly basis. The success you see in others didn’t “just happen.” It was not given to them, it didn’t fall in their lap, they didn’t wake up one day and everything clicked. For the person you see whom you admire in your field, that person did the work. They had a vision, they figured out small steps to move them in the right direction, and they didn’t stop taking them.
What part of future-casting for 2023 excites you the most? Start there! If you are up for it, I would love to hear about your plans for 2023!
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