Understanding the High-Achiever Blues

Are you at a point where your career doesn't feel right, but you can't put your finger on the problem? You're not alone. Many lawyers, doctors and other professional high-achievers are showing signs of the career blues.

Any career will feel hollow unless it brings satisfaction in four different areas: status, mastery, balance and meaning. The following questions may help you finally "put the finger" on the roots of your career malaise:

  • Are you satisfied with your standard of living?
  • Have you climbed the ladder in your field as far as you'd like to go?
  • Do you feel respected and recognized by your peers?
  • Do you feel comfortable enough now to want to give back?

If you answered yes (or leaning to yes) to at least three of these questions, you've attained the level of status whether financial security, prestige, influence or the respect of your peers that you desire.

  • Are you currently involved in a project with a stimulating learning curve and an upcoming measurable result?
  • Can you see the next stimulating project coming down the pike?
  • Do people you respect recognize your expertise and results?
  • Does the subject matter of your work still engage you?

If you answered yes (or leaning to yes) to at least three of these questions, you've attained a satisfying level of mastery in your profession, i.e., the ability to produce an objectively measurable outcome that stands as proof to the world of your competence and talent.

  • Are you satisfied with the number and quality of relationships in your life?
  • Are you spending all the time you'd like with your family and friends?
  • Do you spend enough time each week tending to your physical, creative and spiritual sides?
  • Is there a changing rhythm to your days and weeks, created by interaction with a variety of people and activities?

If you answered yes (or leaning to yes) to at least three of these questions, you've created a satisfying balance among commitments to your work, your relationships and yourself.

  • Does your work draw upon the best parts of yourself, both in terms of your skills and your values?
  • Are you still learning new things about yourself and the world around you?
  • Can you express your true self through your work?
  • Do you feel your work makes a meaningful contribution?

If you answered yes (or leaning to yes) to at least three of these questions, your work satisfies your need for meaningful contribution.

If you're hitting strong in all four areas, it's time to pick something new to master, whether at work, in volunteer activities or as a hobby. If you're weak in all four areas, get ready for some major career reworking.

[Additional resources to help assess your career are found throughout FindLaw's Legal Career Assessment section including worksheets and questionnaires to help continue your self-assessment, profiles of individuals who made successful transitions within the law, and options outside of the law for JDs.]

(c) 2000 Deborah Arron. Excerpted from Arrons forthcoming book, "The High-Achiever Blues."