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WRITTEN BY ALICIA KOCH, FOUNDER OF THE LEGAL BELLETRIST

It’s an inside job today!

I have been thinking a lot about the term “High-Fliers” recently. And what it really means.

This is probably due to the fact that during all this “Lockdown” time I have been indulging in some true RomCom classics, like the Bridget Jones trilogy (it’s an obvious one). Of specific meaning, at least to this particular conversation, is Bridget Jones – Edge of Reason. It’s hilarious. But it is also significant. For a number of reasons. 

Of particular importance is the Legal Quiz scene and the discussion between Bridget and Giles Benwick – 

 “Giles – You see, there’s the high-fliers, like Annabel and Mark Darcy and there’s the gorgeous girls, like Rebecca there and there’s the rest of us.

Bridget – Like you and me, you mean?

Giles – Absolutely. l mean, look at the state of us. You and me stumbled into the VlP room by mistake and it’s only a matter of moments before they show us the door”. 

You see, I have found myself relating more and more to the Bridget’s and Giles’s of the world rather than the high-fliers like Mark Darcy and Rebecca Gillies. Stumbling into the VIP room myself. By mistake of course. And now waiting to be shown the door……

So the other day, when I tried to think of who the high-fliers in my circle of friends and colleagues were, there was one name that came to mind immediately – Frieda Levycky.

She is the very definition of a “High Flier”. I mean she has done more than most. Climbing mountains whilst achieving Senior Associate status (after only a few years of practice), becoming Head of Global Mergers & Acquisitions by 34, General Counsel by 35 and Partner by 36. And always remaining in tip- top physical condition by spending hours in the gym achieving abs of steel (making a lot of us green with envy). 

And that’s a long list of tick items that some of us have yet to tick. 

Whilst I, on the other hand, resemble very much (not because of any illicit drugs but because of a general sense of “WTF”?) Bridget on the beach in Thailand, dazed and confused – Looking at all the pretty colours….

© 2004 Universal Studios and Studio Canal and Miramax Film Corp.

You can imagine my shock, when I heard that Frieda was struggling to find motivation after varying levels of lockdown resulting in months and months of inconsistency and “loss of mojo”. 

It seems that even the High Fliers had come down to earth to spend a little time with the rest of us. But let’s be honest. Frieda is only human. Not infallible nor super human. 

She is “just a girl standing in front of a salad, wishing it was a cupcake” kind of girl.

Just like the rest of us. 

And we can all relate. 

Turning 40 has a way of sneakily creeping up on you. On tippy toes. In the dark. Making no noise at all, until it gets right up behind you and claps its hands.

FRRRREEEEEAKING you the hell out!

And with my own sneaky 40 creeping up on me too, I just had to sit down with Frieda to find out what’s what. 

What’s the T girlfriend?

So like all girlfriends, Frieda and I got together over a lovely glass of Chardonnay (via Zoom of course) and discussed mojo, the need to find motivation, what can deter you, what can encourage you and of course what turning 40 means….

What set this all in motion was Frieda’s feeling of being a little lack-lustered and struggling to get back to her active self. Being someone who thrives on staying active, who thrives on challenges and who thrives on excelling, she decided to start the “Motivate Me” challenge. She has set out to do a 40-day yoga challenge from 1 July to 11 August – focusing on healthy, positive intrinsic motivation (i.e. internal rewards) rather than focusing on any negativity (which she has done before).  

She is on day 22 and so far, has had a number of revelations…..

But – So far, so good. 

The struggles of keeping motivated

Frieda readily admits that she has historically been motivated and driven by fear and/or pain to succeed (obviously a negative motivation). No one can deny that it got her to the top. Quite quickly. But it also left her with scars and traumas that she has had to deal with over the years. 

Discovering and admitting that she has previously been motivated by fear and pain, led to a number of truths. Hard truths. 

As an example, this is the first time Frieda has ever undertaken a challenge or set out to achieve a goal from a positive intrinsic standpoint. And it has proven, in some circumstances, to be difficult. Previously Frieda had always had a clear goal in mind and often ended up taking on too much, justifying to herself that she was working hard to achieve a goal. And she would be rewarded at the end of it by a promotion or financial incentive. She has always been motivated by a long term vision – “this is where I will be in 2 years’ time”. 

So undertaking something that was purely focused on her. Something that was not related to work. Something that actually took time away from her work, not resulting in a promotion or financial gain, left her in a bit of spin. Initially. Having her inner saboteur constantly saying – 

  • How could she take time away from work for something personal?
  • Work is more important than personal goals.
  • You have no long-term vision here – what’s the point?
  • You have no real goal here – how will undertaking a yoga challenge benefit your career?

But through this challenge she has discovered that taking time out for herself has not affected her business, it has not affected her career. In fact, it has improved it all. 

And the biggest realisation has been – why are we always the first thing that we cross off our “to-do” list? 

It shouldn’t be this way. And by realising this, Frieda has found motivation in the fact that she does, in fact, have a clear goal which is supported by her purpose to have a healthy work-life balance. Where she can enjoy work as well as her personal time and not feel guilty about either. She is having fun, doing something new every day, excited to be challenged physically – she wants to keep on going. 

As a perfect example, she had a really tough week where she took on re-drafting a contract which required far more work than she initially realised. It sent her into a bit of a tailspin. Panic rose. And she thought to herself “How can I take time out of my day to do something for myself when there is urgent work waiting?”

But she forced herself to. Not something she would have done before. And by doing so, discovered – 

  • Her perspective of what was really important and what was really urgent had changed.
  • She managed to clear her head, enabling her to truly apply her mind. She woke up the next day refreshed, with a renewed outlook and tackled the contract in a way that proved better than had she not taken the time out and slogged on.
  • In fact, had she slogged on, she’d have missed a key structuring point which would have resulted in the contract needing further changes at a later date. By taking time out for herself, she drafted the contract in a far better and more efficient way. 

Putting herself on her own to-do list has, so far, been the biggest achievement of all.  

What’s working, what’s not?

What’s working?

  1. Having a routine has been a saving grace. As routine often is: By diarising time for her yoga challenge – like any other meeting – it enabled Frieda to take time out. Without the guilt. Have a breather. And come back to her work refreshed, renewed and excited to tackle difficult tasks. Having variety in her routines has also kept things interesting for her. Something Frieda needs in her life. 
  2. Having a yoga instructor is important for her. Ensuring she shows up – because someone has taken time out of their day to dedicate to Frieda. It is a respect thing. Having accountability to someone is important. It has kept her on track and has kept her committed. The hardest yoga routines are the ones you have to tackle alone. The external motivation and having someone to “answer to” helps her stay on track. 

But she has also realised that there is a big difference between doing something because you have to – because you have been told to – and doing something because you want to and have someone supporting you. That’s a positive motivation. And one which has kept her going. 

What’s not working?

  1. The journal reflection exercise has been a challenge in itself! Having to reflect on her challenge on a day-to-day basis has not been easy. In fact, instead of feeling motivated and excited to document her journey, it has resulted in feelings of stress and anxiety at having to write feelings down daily. And that surprised her.

When she travelled abroad, during a time when she experienced an emotional transition in her life, she was able to document her feelings and what she was experiencing. Easily. The journals have served as a great record of this transitional point in her life. And she has looked back on them over the years with a sense of accomplishment and deep meaning. 

These things shouldn’t be forced. They need to flow easily. Otherwise, they don’t hold the meaning they should. 

So she has stopped journaling this particular journey and has rather focused on the overall positive impact on her life. With no real need for words.

Her tips to stay motivated?

This will be different for each person. We are all motivated differently (read Frieda’s article on motivation here). But for Frieda it has come down to having variety and fun. Being able to enjoy more than one thing during her “me” time. 

It has come down to making the most out of her time – using it wisely. For Frieda, it has involved listening to audio books whilst on her way to her yoga class: such as The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut (a hugely beneficial developmental framework which provides deeper insight into your personality, motivation and self-limiting beliefs. It helps that Frieda is a trained Enneagram Coach!) and No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts (seemingly quite apt during this challenge).

By doing more than one of the things she loves in order to meet her work-life balance expectations, she has been able to affirm her core values and by doing so, she is now fully aware of what her core values are – variety, fun, intuition, trust and security. Knowing this enables her to focus her attentions on them in order to improve her overall wellness and life purpose. 

Let’s face it – “variety and fun are often lacking for a self-proclaimed workaholic” (Frieda’s words). But by doing her yoga every day and listening to her audio books, her need for variety and fun is being met.  And when you live in line with your values, you have a purpose. 

And that is an extremely powerful thing!

Something she has learnt not only through her 40 day challenge, but something she has also learnt through coaching around the Enneagram (something she highly recommends).

Staying intrinsically motivated in line with meeting her core values has really kept her on track. 

And living with purpose is awesome!

Are there saboteurs trying to detract her from her goal?

Absolutely!

We all have our own inner Judge (someone Frieda met and got well acquainted with in her Naked Lawyer article). 

You know that nagging negative nelly that always brings up your worst fears and deepest insecurities? That’s the culprit.

And Frieda has had this Judge in her head big time during the challenge!

  • You shouldn’t take time out of your working day to do something for yourself!
  • You cannot put your needs before those of your clients! 
  • What’s the point? Just be happy with who you are.
  • You have lost a couple of pounds already, so you may as well stop here.
  • You are only planning on doing this for 40 days, so it’s not such a big deal if you quit now.
  • This isn’t paying you, so you should focus on the things that do – like your clients.

And it took a lot of work to quieten that voice

But shush it you must!

Stay focused on your goals, especially when they align with your core values and give you purpose. 

Stay true to yourself and what you need to make your life full of meaning and purpose. 

It is an inside job.

Just like Pearl Jam sang in Inside job – 

“I will not lose my faith

It’s an inside job today

I know this one thing well”

It is important to remember that you too count. You need to be on your own to-do list. Your internal desires and needs for a fulfilling life are crucial. 

Do not lose your faith!

“Life comes from within your heart and desire”…

What has been the real “Aha” moment?

Everything is actually ok!

There has actually been no backlash for taking time out to do yoga. The world hasn’t fallen apart because she took 90 minutes out of her day to focus on her inner wellbeing. 

Work is getting done, even better than before, in a shorter period of time thanks to her renewed energy and focus. There is no one throwing their toys out the cot. No one shouting at her because she has taken time out of her day to do something for herself. In fact, most of her clients have been supportive, asking about the challenge and wanting to join. 

Now that’s a revelation for any professional…. The world doesn’t fall apart in your absence, clients don’t have conniptions and work still gets done. I mean, who would’ve thunk it? 

There will always be this fear that if you change something in your life, you have to give up something else. But that simply isn’t true. A sacrifice for the betterment of your life, is not always required. Both literally and figuratively…

And that’s hard to remember. Especially during uncertain times, like COVID, lockdowns and looting. You always seem to default back to your old ways – the Judge firmly sitting on the bench in your subconscious. 

It is impossible to foresee all the difficulties you will face. In life in general really. 

There will always be self-awareness work that you will need to do. Working on yourself, facing your uncertainties, challenges and insecurities head on.

Remembering to always take deep breaths.

And on turning 40?

It’s really just a number. Truthfully.

And by doing the work (on an ongoing basis), especially at 40, instead of running for the hills you will learn to dance with your inner Judges as they come along.

Finishing off our Zoom “fireside” chat (it is winter after all) and our respective glasses of Chardonnay, we come to one more conclusion (over a lot of laughter and toasts to our good health) – we absolutely agree with Bridget Jones!

“Smug – well it’s about time. So maybe just a little”.

About time for what you may ask?

For putting ourselves first. And not feeling guilty about it. 

For embracing our 40 year old status with excitement and joy! After all, just like a fine wine, you always get better with age. Remembering of course to store your bottles of wine well and ensuring you make yourself a priority!   

So, yeah, maybe we are being a little smug about that. Because it’s about time!


About the writer, Alicia Koch, Founder of The Legal Belletrist.

Alicia, an admitted attorney with over 10 years PQE, and now a legal writer and researcher, has established The Legal Belletrist to assist companies (in different sectors) to write well-researched articles that speak to each company’s core business, enabling growth and commercialism. 

Click here to visit The Legal Belletrist website.

Email: legalwhizz@gmail.com 

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