The road not taken

By Jill Fenaughty Fall 2015

Is it time to re-evaluate your choices ?

The road not taken

Life is a path with many forks and branches. Sometimes we second-guess the choices we make and the roads we take years after the decision is made. I’ve seen that kind of inner conflict surface regularly over my years of working in Lawyers’ Assistance and now as a practising clinician providing counselling and psychotherapy to legal professionals.

Sometimes the conflict arises from the way we came to the decision, if it was made half-heartedly, or was influenced by values or circumstances that no longer pertain. Some choices are thrust upon us — lawyers may downsize their practice or even leave law for family reasons, mental health or physical health issues, lack of firm or external supports, or other reasons beyond their control.

For many of the lawyers I’ve met, the road not taken represents an element of unfinished business. They have not fully accepted that the path they followed was a choice — even if the situation thrust an unappealing choice upon them — and that every choice we make has consequences. Many lawyers feel shame and a sense of failure if their lives are not measuring up to their initial expectations or the expectations of family and society. But those expectations can be unrealistic, or rooted in external or material measures of success, and often they fail to factor in the complexities of life.

My message is to shake it off and walk on. Be mature enough to accept that the rewards (status, money) of Bay Street may not be yours if you choose a path that guarantees fewer hours and more time with family. Recognize that money and external rewards are not the only currency in life. We make choices based on circumstances and values which change over time. The particular situations which might have once forced us onto a particular path can also change in time and new opportunities can present themselves. So hit the reset button and re-evaluate your career choice. If for whatever reason you’re not happy with the road you took, don’t just think about the other path — explore it, see if it really is where you’d rather be. That’s what I did: I left law for family reasons, became a clinician and now have a practice working with lawyers. The past is behind us; what we do with the days ahead is indeed within our control. 

Jill Fenaughty is a lawyer-therapist providing counselling and psychotherapy to legal professionals in Toronto. Email: info@jillfenaughty.com

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