We cannot solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them. — Albert Einstein
Einstein’s quote, one of my all-time favorites, is a touch-point for our times. We hear about “out of the box” thinking, we know that innovation is a requirement in today’s world, and the only way to produce either is to adjust how we think about whatever we’re facing.
In the context of practicing law, changing how we think about practice (and building a practice) is usually the first step to making a change. For example, if you’re aiming for success in a law firm by being a reliable, industrious, somewhat reserved worker-bee but you notice that you keep getting passed over for the big cases you’d like to work on, continuing to work harder and harder without more is unlikely to lead to change.
If you’re constantly running ragged, wondering how you can connect with your spouse and/or children in an hour or so at the beginning or end of each day, it’s a safe bet that you won’t shift your actions until and unless you shift your perspective. Want a new job? You’ll have to pull some time and attention away from what you’re doing now to make the time to launch a job search.
And if you believe that business development is something that you’ll begin “later,” you likely won’t recognize business development opportunities that may come your way — because chance favors the prepared mind.
Making a change often requires stepping outside a situation long enough to identify a problem and then making a mental shift that will help in solving that problem. How the shift happens is individual to each person. But creating and then using a shift relies on several basic principles.
- The shift must be authentic. If your partner, your supervisor, your doctor, or anybody else tells you to make a change and you don’t buy into it, there will be no shift. Remember the punchline to the joke asking how many psychiatrists are needed to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to really, really want to change. No psychiatry here, but if you don’t really, really want to change (or at least really, really, really believe you need to change), chances are good that you’ll keep on doing the same old, same old.
- Maintaining the shift means keeping it in the forefront of your mind. If you’re trying to make a habit of arranging lunch with one key contact a week, put a reminder on your calendar where you see it daily. If you want to improve your efficiency in the office, use time management tools that keep your eye on efficiency. Holding onto a shift in perspective means keeping it in front of you in some way, because it’s often all too easy to slide back to the old, familiar approach.
- Reaping the benefit of the shift requires action. While it’s important to recognize a problem or a situation that can be improved, that’s empty if it’s merely recognition without follow-through. If you want more balance in your life, take some action, even if it’s a small one. Claiming a 15-minute walk for yourself in the afternoon will not only provide some balance but also will remind you that you’re seeking balance. (Put it in your calendar and keep that commitment, too!)
- It’s easier to maintain a shift, and to design and implement the actions that the shift calls for, when you have support. Tell your spouse that you need to set aside 3 hours on Saturday morning to catch up on work. Tell your assistant that you plan to eat lunch away from your desk one day this week. Work with a coach to provide accountability as you set out on your business development plans. According to a study conducted by the American Society for Training and Development, “consciously deciding” to complete a goal usually yields about a 25% success rate. Deciding to make a change, telling someone what that change is, and committing to completing it by a certain deadline, raises the chances of success to about 95%.
What do you need to shift in the way you see your practice?