Junior lawyers and happiness - How to get it

Happiness: Does it come from having more, wanting more or doing more?

This is an avatar image of the blog author Tanya Dunbabin

More, more, more - more work, more emails, more clothes, more jewellery, more money.  The western world operates from such an individualistic viewpoint that the desire for me, me, me and more, more, more is a common denominator.  

Driven to buy more things, and own more things, is it in fact bringing us true happiness?  Our self-centred approach to gluttonous consumption in the pursuit of happiness, fades once the new shiny item has been unpacked out of it’s bright and shiny packaging.  The marketing angles deployed ensure that we feeling the strong requirement to have to own one of these newest and greatest items that make us feel cool, special, unique and happy.  But we are all those things already without this purchase aren’t we?   Have we lost sight of that? 

Many of you are aware that I have more recently been spending my time living in Thailand.  The Thai culture, their way of working and just their lives generally enthral me.  I watch with so much curiosity at the laundry shop, at the noodle shop, at the massage places and at the markets of how they interact, how they commit themselves to work and their families, how they in fact manage the balance.  Life here is completely and utterly simple.  And boy are they happy!  Even those without the simplest of life’s basic needs are happy.  They have a close community around them, they chat and chat and chat (with me only catching certain parts of the conversation, if any!).  Life for them may not be materially rich but it is extremely rich in relationships and the time dedicated to chatting, conversing and spending time with one another.  

I have been fortunate enough to get involved in prison visits and kids club with a charity here.  On Saturdays we help to run a soccer coaching clinic for an hour and then spend the rest of the morning singing songs, developing skills, drawing and painting.  The kids arrive from the slums with such enthusiasm - dressed in their soccer kits that have been donated.  They play hard and with vigour and enjoy a morning spending singing and creating together.  It gives parents a child free morning, and the children a community to relax and be kids in.  The children show patience and such care for one another, and at lunch time they sit quietly and all eat together.  

Riches in wealth they may not be, however rich in soul and community enrichment is just so evident.  But I even feel that within the expat community here and it has highlighted to me what is so different to home. We have no time - ever … always so, so busy.  Too busy for friends, catch-ups, family events and forever so busy.  When you review Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the difference between the two cultures is so evident.  Maslow’s Hierarchy pyramid starts from the bottom with psychological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation.  Once growth needs have been met, one may be able to seek out a higher level.  It is the esteem needs where I believe the cultures differ.  The esteem need is classified as prestige and the feeling of accomplishment.  This is the motivator of many behaviours, approaches and engagements in western society.  In the legal profession, this alone is a massive motivator.  However it should not be over and above everything else, or to the detriment of others (be it things or people).   

Travel alters the lens in which you look at life.  Watching the interactions of Thai people has been so fulfilling and engaging to see a culture that is so very, very happy.  They make each other happy, they care so much for one another and their connections through interpersonal relationships is so very strong.  We have to be so very careful not to lose our interpersonal relationships.  They are the key to a happy and fulfilled life - being enriched by conversations and care from one another.  As lawyers and the legal profession generally struggles with the highest rate of mental illness issues than ever before, is the issue at the crux of it that we are forgoing connection?  We are motivated and thrive on interpersonal connections - leaders that inspire us, cheerleaders that encourage us, and peers that motivate us.  But technology makes it super easy for us to rely on messenger, emails and texts to communicate (and now even not through words but through emojis!).  Although quick and time saving, this impacts connection.

I am not saying throw your Iphone out the car window, or reconsider email in your life.  That is a too drastic measure.  But in asking yourself some deep questions about how happy you in fact are and how and when did that change, will cause some self-reflection that may teach you a little about what you need in life to be happy.  

So how happy are you?  

Which relationships are you actively contributing to or nurturing on a weekly basis?

And before that next purchase, consider if those material items will add to your happiness.    

Be sure to be flaming that connection - or in Maslow’s technical terms ‘Belongingness and love needs’.  By ensuring those growth needs are met, you will feel and bring so much more happiness to life.