Chetna Bhatt, co-founder and CEO of Being Lawyers, is a certified executive coach, part-time in-house employment lawyer and speaker. Here she looks at what we can all do to maximise our potential and help ensure our wellbeing at work.

I have been studying human potential for several years and have been fortunate enough to work with world-class coaches and mentors in the UK and abroad. What I have come to learn is that uncovering our natural wellbeing is transformative, profound and practical.

I used to believe that law was inherently stressful and winded up in a state of chronic stress as a lawyer, ultimately falling chronically ill. I tried a wide range of daily strategies to help me recover including positive thinking, yoga and meditation. It sometimes felt like I had a job on top of a job just to stay well. I noticed they were sometimes helpful, but not always, and when they worked, they only ever provided me with temporary relief. 

It was very much my own struggle with wellbeing that brought me to a point where I became a voracious learner of the workings of the mind to improve wellbeing. It became a necessity rather than just a desirable.

I went on to uncover psychological principles that create the human experience and that are always operating in the background (even when they do not appear to be). They helped me understand how wellbeing and stress works and awakened the wellbeing inside of me to bring about real long-lasting changes.

I was surprised to find a way to not only regain my wellbeing and recover, but to thrive. And perhaps even more importantly, gain psychological freedom from my external circumstances (whatever they may be). This meant that external factors such as deadlines, targets and workload no longer needed to change in order for my wellbeing to be kept intact. I have been able to have an entirely different healthy and positive internal experience of the same (previously stressful) external circumstances. I have found this has also been true for the clients I have shared this understanding with.

The understanding goes beyond the sticking plaster approach to the root cause of stress and is a much-needed paradigm shift in the wellbeing conversation. It is the wellbeing solution that so many lawyers are seeking out and allows us to simply enjoy being lawyers with a strong foundation of wellbeing in place.

To provide a glimpse into the understanding, we all have an innate capacity to thrive and perform at our best. There is however, unfortunately, a noisy distracted mind epidemic among lawyers, which interferes with our ability to access our potential.

Tim Gallwey provides a useful equation on performance in his book The Inner Game of Work:

Performance = potential – interference

Our ability to perform at our best is equal to our capability minus the interference of our unhelpful thinking (for example, worrying, overthinking and overanalysing). In other words, the only factor that takes us away from being able to perform to the best of our ability is a noisy distracted mind.

Reaching our potential is natural but for the extent to which we engage in unhelpful thinking. As soon as we stop doing this, our minds naturally self-correct. If we are not operating at our A game and want to be, it is therefore less about adding strategies to our to do list and more about subtracting the noise of our thinking.

One of my lawyer clients explained how she saw the effect of this at work. She is sometimes able to rattle through her to-do list creatively and effectively, with a clear, engaged and resilient mind. It gets to 5pm and she reflects on how productive she has been, working in her flow-like state and able to navigate challenges with an ease. By sharp contrast, she stated there are often days when she has a noisy distracted mind and feels unable to complete the simplest tasks, consumed by worried thoughts. She feels stressed and completely unable to perform her best.

In reality, far too many of us spend an inordinate amount of time in a state of chronic distraction and the impact of this can be seen everywhere. One of the practical benefits of uncovering our natural wellbeing is that we can notice ourselves going off course to allow our minds to self-correct. This means that we can maximise our potential and keep our wellbeing intact.

Chetna will be exploring this topic further at the sole practitioner and high street conference in October. Read more at Being Lawyers

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