Keep Technology from Disrupting Happiness

The following contains excerpts from Kira M. Newman, How to Keep Technology from Disrupting Your Happiness, Greater Good Berkeley, (Apr 13, 2017).

Technology can bring happiness, but if we are not careful, it can also bring anxiety, stress, and frustration. Amy Blankson, author of the book, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era, has deemed our back-and-forth emotions with technology as an “attitude problem”. She says, “As tech advances and we accept these changes without pause, I worry that maybe our happiness is getting left behind, moving further down the priority list.”

To help get our happiness back regarding technology, Blankson argues that we should pause and become more self-aware. We should set intentional goals for our technological interactions. “That way, we’ll cultivate more connection and productivity—and less stress and loneliness—in our digital lives.”

The average American turns their phone on 46 times per day, and only sometimes during those times are we using it for something useful –such as looking up a restaurant, using Google Maps, or setting an alarm. However, Blankson says, “I encourage you to avoid the road of the tech doomsday-sayers, because I don’t see that it is truly possible for us to eliminate technology and I don’t think we should have to eliminate technology to find happiness.”

For example, many tech users say that email has improved their relationships with their family and friends. Many people have even met someone online and later connected with them in person –some of those people are now married or engaged.

In her book, Blankson gives some tips on how to use technology in ways to avoid stress. She recommends checking email, social media, and news just three times a day. She cites research that suggests that people who check these things less frequently become less stressed and in turn sleep better, experience deeper social connections, and live more meaningful lives.

She also suggests putting down our phones and laptops at certain times and using them at others. For example, Blankson encourages families to share moments of gratitude on Facebook or Instagram, and even recommends some apps to help us become more giving and empathic.

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Mindfulness for Law Study & Lawyering

The following contains an excerpt from Leonard L. Riskin, The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contributions of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers, and their Clients (View Article).

It seems likely that the outcomes of mindfulness can help improve or enrich a law student or lawyer’s performance on virtually any task, from learning and manipulating rules, to drafting documents and litigating cases. In addition,…mindfulness sometimes deepens and clarifies a person’s awareness.

Jerry Conover, of counsel to Faegre and Benson in Denver, says that it affects his overall state of mind, giving him a “balancing and bottoming perspective that is unshakeable.”

Steven Schwartz, head of a public interest disability law firm based in Northampton, Massachusetts, says that it helps him think creatively. Sometimes when he is meditating, without trying for anything, solutions to practical problems in the office occur to him; on some days, the outline of an entire brief will come to him, and, he says, “[it] is sublimely, precisely correct.” In addition, the practice helps him connect with his feelings of compassion for his clients, “it is singularly why,” Schwartz says, “I’ve been able to do the same work for twenty-seven years without being overwhelmed by the pain and my feelings for these devalued people.” It has also deepened his understanding of the motives of people involved in his cases and keeps him motivated for “the long haul.”

The peaceful presence of a lawyer who practices mindfulness meditation is likely to affect the client, too.

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Happiness Leads to Success

The follow contains excerpts from S. Lyubomirsky, L. King & E. Diener, The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? 131 Psychological Bulletin 803-855 (2005). (View Study)

There is a strong relationship between success and happiness. But the question is which comes first, happiness or success?

While psychological research tends to talk about success leading to happiness, there is also plenty of evidence showing that happiness can also lead to success. Some evidence comes from experimental studies that induce participants into positive and negative moods and then compare their behaviors in certain situations.

This correlation is important because many times people will focus on success thinking that it will lead to happiness and while trying to become successful, they ignore their happiness in the moment. This evidence, shows that people should pursue success but not to the exclusion of happiness.

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Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy

The following video and description is from

Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy
What are our screen and devices doing to us? Psychologist Adam Alter studies how much time screens steal from us and how they’re getting away with it. He shares why all those hours you spend staring at your smartphone, tablet or computer might be making you miserable — and what you can do about it.

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Financial Incentives: Good or Bad?

Contributor: Fred Egler, Esq.
Senior Counsel at Reed Smith LLP in Pittsburgh, fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Past President of the Allegheny County Bar Association, and was the Editor-In-Chief of the Pittsburgh Legal Journal for 15 years.

The following contains excerpts from Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Financial incentives (pay-for-performance) have shown to be effective for improving productivity in jobs that are repetitive or transactional. However, as our society moves towards jobs that require more creativity –design, creating marketing campaigns, software, inventing products, etc. – financial incentives are not only less effective at eliciting performance, but can actually impede performance.

“Behavioral scientists often divide what we do on the job or learn in school into two categories: ‘algorithmic’ and ‘heuristic.’ An algorithmic task is one in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion. … A heuristic task is the opposite. Precisely because no algorithm exists for it, you have to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution. Working as a grocery checkout clerk is mostly algorithmic. … Creating an ad campaign is mostly heuristic. You have to come up with something new.

“During the twentieth century, most work was algorithmic…. [W]e could reduce much of what we did – in accounting, law, computer programming, and other fields – to a script, a spec sheet, a formula, or a series of steps that produced a right answer. … The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that in the United States, only 30 percent of job growth now comes from algorithmic work, while 70 percent comes from heuristic work. A key reason: Routine work can be outsourced or automated; artistic, empathic, non-routine work generally cannot.

“Researchers such as Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile have found that external rewards and punishments – both carrots and sticks – can work nicely for algorithmic tasks. But they can be devastating for heuristic ones. Those sorts of challenges – solving novel problems or creating something the world didn’t know it was missing – depend heavily on … the intrinsic motivation principle of creativity, which holds, in part: ‘Intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.’ In other words, the central tenets of Motivation 2.0 [external ‘carrot and stick’ motivation] may actually impair performance of the heuristic, right-brained work on which modern economics depend.

“Partly because work has become more creative and less routine, it has also become more enjoyable. That, too, scrambles Motivation 2.0’s assumptions. This operating system rests on the belief that work is not inherently enjoyable – which is precisely why we must coax people with external rewards and threaten them with outside punishment. One unexpected finding of the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi … is that people are much more likely to report having ‘optimal experiences’ on the job [in heuristic work] than during leisure. But if work is inherently enjoyable for more and more people, then the external inducements at the heart of Motivation 2.0 become less necessary.

“What happens when you give people a [complex] conceptual [problem] and offer them rewards for speedy solutions? San Glucksberg, a psychologist now at Princeton University, tested this in the early 1960s by timing how quickly two groups of participants solved the … problem. He told the first group that he was timing their work merely to establish norms for how long it typically took someone to complete this sort of puzzle. To the second group he offered incentives. If a participant’s time was among the fastest 25 percent of all the people being tested, that participant would receive $5. If the participant’s time was the fastest of all, the reward would be $20. Adjusted for inflation, those are decent sums of money for a few minutes of effort – a nice motivator.

“How much faster did the incentivized group come up with a solution? On average, it took them nearly three and a half minutes longer. … Indirect contravention to the core tenets of Motivation 2.0, an incentive designed to clarify thinking and sharpen creativity ended up clouding thinking and dulling creativity. Why? Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus. That’s helpful when there’s a clear path to a solution. They help us stare ahead and race faster. But ‘if-then’ motivators are terrible for [complex conceptual problems]. As this experiment shows, the rewards narrowed people’s focus and blinkered the wide view that might have allowed them to see new uses for old objects.”

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Seek Balance & Do Not Fear Change

The following contains excerpts from Melaine Shannon Rothey, Parting thoughts: Seek balance, don’t fear change, 19(12) ACBA Lawyers Journal 3 (Jun 9, 2017).

[R]emember that there are four generations of lawyers practicing today – the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, the Gen X-ers and the Millennials. Each of these generations has its positives and its negatives. We can learn from both aspects. We do not always have to agree with opposing counsel or with the judge; however, we must disagree in a civil and respectful manner, whether in open court or in a pleading or in correspondence. Bad attitudes and nastygrams have no place in our profession.

Work/life balance –the line between work and home has become seriously blurred. We have to figure out a way to “check out” of the office. We have to take some serious, uninterrupted time for ourselves and our families. I know that you find this hard to believe, but the office will survive without you.

Change –change is not a bad thing. Just because we “always did it this way” does not mean that we should not try a new way to do things. At the very least, those of us that have been doing it the same way for many years should listen and entertain a new option or procedure.

Mentoring –we must mentor each other. To the Silent Generation and the Boomers, be patient with the young-uns. They really do want to learn. They will catch on and will probably improve upon the technique. Gen-Xers and Millennials, be patient with us. We are not trying to make you crazy. We are just resistant to change.

Remember the five lessons from Dr. Seuss:
BE YOURSELF – Who else do you want to be?
MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE – Isn’t that the reason most of us went to law school?
NEVER STOP LEARNING –Knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE – Do I really have to continue to repeat the necessity of work/life balance?
BE POSITIVE – We are surrounded by negativity all day long.

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Mindfulness Meditation

The following contains an excerpt from Leonard L. Riskin, The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contributions of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students, Lawyers, and their Clients (View Article)

In mindfulness meditation, a person seeks to develop “bare attention,” or presence, i.e., to notice without judging and with equanimity, whatever passes through her awareness-bodily sensations, emotions, sounds, and thoughts. The cultivation of this awareness-formal practice-can be done sitting, standing, walking or moving in other ways, such as in yoga.

The sitting practice, which is the most common, usually beings with learning to concentrate by paying attention to one’s breathing. Next, the meditator gradually expands her awareness to include bodily sensations, emotions, thought, and eventually, consciousness itself-or the operation of the mind.

This is what came into the awareness of one meditator, as she narrated it to a reporter:
…fear …it’s O.K. …compassion … butterflies in belly …fear … kindness…, compassion…, hearing…, bird, house finch …naming … thinking … joy…

Any of these thoughts might hook the thinker’s attention into a long sequence of worries, reveries, fantasies and emotions linked to the past or future. Of course, it is easy and normal for people-while meditating and in every day life-to get caught up in and attached to such chains of thoughts, feelings, and emotions and their associated bodily sensations.

When this happens, however, we lose track of what is going on in the moment. For a lawyer, this can mean thinking about client X while listening to client Y, and not noticing negative thoughts or feelings toward client Y. A law student, while reading Hadley v. Baxendale for Contracts, might be worrying about Pennoyer v. Neff for Civil Procedure-or anticipating weekend social activities or regretting not going to business school or joining the Peace Corps.

Mindfulness meditation can produce important insights as well as practical benefits. Just as practice drills help basketball players hone their jump-shots, which they can use in games, mindfulness meditation can help people develop an ability to pay attention, calmly, in each moment, which they can apply in everyday life. It enables us to see how our minds work, to experience our lives more fully.

Mindfulness mediation, in short is a systematic process of investigation that can affect perception and behavior. The Buddha understood the practice as part of a path to relieve suffering and produce happiness. In this view, life involves a great deal of suffering; the cause of suffering is craving; the way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate craving or detach from it; and the way to eliminate or detach from craving is to adopt a series of attitudes and practices involving wisdom, morality and meditation.

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2017 World Happiness Report

Contributor: Robert A. Creo, Esq.
Robert A. Creo has over 35 years of practical experience in the dispute resolution field as an attorney, author, arbitrator, mediator, special master and educator.  He is an Adjunct Professor at Duquesne University School of Law and has previously taught at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Mr. Creo is the Principal of The Happy! Effective Lawyer, LLC affiliate of The Joyful Lawyer Blog.

Statistics from

According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, the top ten happiest countries are as follows:

  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • Switzerland
  • Finland
  • Netherlands
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Sweden

The report showed a decline in American happiness that pointed to a social crisis as opposed to an economic crisis. The U.S. was down from number 13 to number 14.

The report pays special attention to the social foundations of happiness for individuals and nations. It starts with global and regional charts showing distribution of answers from approximately 3,000 respondents in each of more than 150 countries.

The top ten countries have remained the same as last year although some have switched places. Six key variables are surveyed for happiness, each of which digs into a different aspect of life.

These six factors are GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations). All of the top ten countries rank high in all six of these factors.

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Mindfulness At Work

The following contains an excerpt from Sara Tollefson, 3 Things Lawyers and Other Professionals Can Do Right Now to Bring Mindfulness to Work, (Aug 4, 2014).

Take Five Minutes for a Mindfulness Reset
Select a set time for a five- to ten-minute “Mindfulness Reset” each day. …For those five minutes, allow your mind to settle on the sensations of breathing in and out, and to let whatever other thought, sensations or emotions arise, and without attaching to them, allowing them to float by…

Take a Minute for Gratitude Each Day
Another suggestion is to incorporate a mindful practice into your daily routine, by ending each evening by reflecting on three things that you experienced that day for which you are grateful.

Find a Community
[I]t’s extremely helpful to experience the support of at least one other person who shares your interest in bringing mindfulness to work.

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Depression in Lawyers

The following is an excerpt from Debra C. Weiss, Perfectionism, “Psychic Bettering” Among Reasons for Lawyer Depression, (18 Feb 2009).

Depression is disproportionately high in the legal profession. Several states have added a mental health component to mandatory legal continuing education due to the striking statistics for depression in lawyers.

  • Depression is 3.6 times more likely in lawyers than any other profession
  • Forty-six percent of lawyers reported experiencing depression at some point in their legal careers
  • One in four lawyers suffer from elevated feelings of psychological distress, including feelings of: inadequacy, inferiority, anxiety, social alienation, isolation and depression
  • Suicide ranks among the leading causes of premature death among lawyers
  • Lawyers are ranked in the top ten professions with the highest suicide rates

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