Making a Good Life in the Law

About The Happy Lawyer

Are Lawyers Happy?

Happiness: A Primer

What Makes Lawyers Happy and Unhappy?

A Happiness Toolbox for Lawyers

Preparing for a Happy Career:
The Law School Years

Making a Happier Law Firm

Lawyers' Stories

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Random Facts




Martin Seligman, probably the most prominent voice in the positive psychology movement, admitted that he once believed that he could make a person happy just by ridding them of their sadness. He found, however, that he couldn’t. When he simply focused on ridding a patient of his sadness what he got was not a happy person but an empty one.

Happiness and sadness are not opposite sides of the same coin; they are sides of different coins. Both are necessary in any complete life. If you’re feeling sad, sometimes you just have to accept that sadness is part of life. Would you value your happiness as much if you’ve never been sad? Could you say you really knew happiness if you’d never met unhappiness? Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychiatry, noted that the “word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not compensated by some sadness.” Of all the many conversations Eric Weiner had during his worldwide exploration of “the geography of bliss,” none stuck with him more than the comment of a musician in the happy city of Reykjavik, Iceland: “I’m happy, but I cherish my melancholia.”

Nurture your melancholy and use it as an opportunity for personal growth or better self-understanding. Melancholy is critical to an understanding of what it means to be human. It leads, as Eric G. Wilson argued in Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, to an awareness of things passing, and from that awareness we gain a deeper sense of our own mortality and, it is hoped, a better grasp of the world’s fragile beauty. Or, as Alan Wolfe recently contended, “[A]n unhappy consciousness may take us further toward understanding than a Bovary-like contentment.”

The Happy Lawyer