Making it happen: how to fulfil on your integrative law projects
This article is written by Kim Wright
On April 12, we were together at the Lawyers as Changemakers event in Melbourne. I really enjoyed getting to know each of the participants. I have fond memories of smiling faces. The energy in the room was high and optimistic. Seventeen projects were created and I left with high hopes for unified action.
Right after the event, there was a flurry of activity on a few tasks. And then the community has mostly gone silent.
It isn’t unusual. We’ve all been to other conferences where we got excited and made big plans for when we were back in the office. Six months later, we run across the notes on some corner table and we sigh wistfully and move them to the closet where we keep the promises we’ve broken to ourselves and other good ideas.
In the excitement of the moment, we make promises and speak about visions that we’d like to see. Then we go back to the office. The to-do list has wrapped around the desk and stretches down the hallway. The phone messages are piled up. Deadlines are looming. Our warm autumn day has given way to the cold of winter. Hibernating sounds good.
The excitement and vision get farther away. “Normal” life takes back over.
We know that nothing will change unless we do something differently. At the same time, we are so overwhelmed or distracted that adding anything to our plates is challenging.
Ideas don’t just manifest. They need a structure that brings them into being. Your life is full and you need to make room for new possibilities to come in.
The project you signed up for could be part of your structure. If it doesn’t inspire you, then create a project that does. How do we recover our sense of possibility and pursue real change?
We lawyers like our “To Do” lists. We like to know what our next step is. What do I do with all this information, all these ideas? Where do I begin?
This article may help with that.
1. PURPOSE, VISION, MISSION, VALUES, GUIDING PRINCIPLES – YOUR WHY
TO DO: Write your values down. For extra credit, write your life purpose, vision, and mission, too. You can list some goals. This working document is aspirational and inspirational. You can put some of your secret desires in it, the big dreams you can’t quite share with others yet. We will call this your “Touchstone.”
Do you remember the values we worked on? What inspired you then? I bet you wrote something down somewhere or maybe you even remember how you answered those questions. The projects grew from our values. We weren’t just adding to your work load. We were creating our own version of the wolves, small changes to impact the legal system. Revisit our workshop values to inspire you. If you need extra inspiration, here is a free on-line assessment, a different one than we did, which will help sort out your values.
You don’t have to write a masterpiece. No one else needs to see the first draft, yet.
What project did you take on out of your values? Does it still inspire you? If so, GREAT! Let’s get going!
If not, I want to remind you that you are the one who said you’d work on your project. It was a vehicle for something bigger. Guess what? You can change your mind. You can take on another project. (Let me know if you want a conversation to create a new project!)
Since you made the promise in public, you should let the rest of us know that you aren’t doing what you said then, that you are doing the new project you have just created.
2. INVOLVE OTHERS IN YOUR PROJECTS
TO DO: Find someone else to answer to.
Find a buddy. Ask a friend. Hire a coach. Create a lunch group or mastermind.
I don’t know about you, but the things I promise to someone else usually get higher priority than the things I want to do but haven’t promised to another. Most of us find it easier to get things done when we’ve promised someone else. When others have expectations of me, I want to please them.
It is a funny thing about being public about a set of values. People expect you to abide by them. When you do, you begin to feel more congruent and life just works better.
Some of my coaching clients tell me that their spouse is their greatest cheerleader in their transformation. If that works for you, go for it. That would not have worked for me, but maybe that is why I am divorced.
3. CREATE STRUCTURE TO CALL YOU INTO ACTION
TO DO: Create reminders and systems for your touchstone and project.
- Put activities related to your touchstone and project into your daily calendar. Reach out to people who might be allies and schedule lunch and put that on your calendar. Move out of the “someday stage” and into the stage where you’re going somewhere or talking to someone next week!
- Have tangible reminders of your values, such as coffee mugs, calendars, wall hangings, etc. in your office.
- Surround yourself with like-minded others, not just lawyers but holistic thinkers of all kinds–but make sure some are lawyers committed to values.
- Set deadlines for accomplishments and tell your buddy or other support person.
In 2000, I created my project to transform the legal profession. That project arose from my life purpose of being a Peacemaker. I was running a law practice, was married in a long distance relationship, and had kids at home. Life was busy enough without adding a new project. But, I was committed and that meant creating intrusions, disrupting my old life to create the new one.
- I hired a coach who helped me to sort out how I could be a lawyer and still be a peacemaker. We tried experiments that kept stretching me outside my box.
- I acquired artwork that symbolized peace. My office mate gave me a quilted wall hanging with symbols of peace. I hung it on the wall opposite my desk, where I could see it when I looked up. I also found a piece of art that was a Chinese character for peace.
- I ordered a coffee mug with a quote about lawyers as peacemakers.
- I began to tell everyone about my project to transform the legal profession. My reasoning was that if everyone knew, they’d ask me how it was going and I’d have to have something to say. I remember saying that if I didn’t fulfill on my project, I would have to move to Guam, because that was the only place where I hadn’t told someone about my goal. A friend got a job in Guam and that door closed, too!
- I volunteered for several tasks for the International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers. This ensured that I would be immersed in the ideas of holistic law and would have many opportunities to meet and talk with like-minded lawyers.
- I created a website, Renaissance Lawyer, and publicly declared what I was up to. We received 100,000 visitors the first year. People I didn’t even know had expectations of me!
- I researched to learn about people who shared my vision and emailed them to set up phone calls. I filled my calendar with appointments to keep me moving.
That was a lot. You don’t have to overachieve like I did. I was serious about achieving what I set out to do. Since those beginnings, my entire life has changed and I am living a life I’ve designed and love.
4. BE IN ACTION
TO DO: Practice, practice, practice living in alignment with your values. Create projects as containers for measuring success. Don’t stop when you fail, just learn the lessons and adjust your plan. When one project is done, find another that inspires you forward.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver
From “The Summer Day”
New and Selected Poems 1992