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burnt-out lawyer

Nomad

How I Went From Burnt-Out Lawyer To Digital Nomad

1024 512 Deborah Newton, life-coach for Clear Skies Coaching Limited

Digital

I spent many years as a stressed-out banking lawyer, both in private practice and in-house. I knew I wanted my life to change but it took me years to figure out how.

The transformation finally came thanks to a combination of powerful life-coaching, stress-induced illness, continuous self-reflection, financial reserves to back up a sabbatical and a period of no income. A healthy dose of bravery was also necessary. I now work remotely from different locations of my choice around the world. Apparently, the official title is ‘digital nomad’.

Hindsight Is A Marvellous Thing

Looking back, there were warning signs at two points in my legal career: the first came a few months after a very intense few months in private practice. I was working on a deal which threatened to complete on a weekly basis. This meant gearing myself up each week by working over the weekend as well as frequently during the night. Not too long after the deal finally completed, I caught a virus which outstayed its welcome by a few months.

Five years later, I was working extremely hard whilst juggling as many spinning plates as possible in my personal life. This was despite having moved in-house the previous year, where I was working less hours. Around that time, I caught shingles, and again, found myself in a position where I was exhausted for months whilst trying to cope with a demanding job. I knew I wanted to change my life. The question was how?

Necessary Change
What was fundamental to me changing my life for the better was having the support of a brilliant life-coach. Together, we worked on my:

values
passions
needs in life
fears and mental blocks I had which could be contributing to me feeling ‘stuck’ in my job

Life-coaching wasn’t a quick fix. It took a committed mental work-out and significant soul-searching before I had the courage to make any dramatic changes.

Epiphanies

Passions: Identifying one of my passions as travel led me to arrange a 6 month sabbatical. Having stoked the fire, I subsequently quit my job so I could set up my own freelance work that could accompany me around the globe. I am now working remotely as a life-coach as well as a consultant lawyer. In the last 7 months, I have worked from Spain, Portugal and Argentina. I urge as many people to find out out what makes them feel alive and do whatever that thing is – whether that is singing in a choir, spending time with nature once a week, writing a blog…you name it.

Fears: I came to realise that every time I dared to think of an alternative career, scathing voices in my head would immediately shoot down any ideas as “ridiculous”, “too extreme”, “unviable”. I also learnt to recognise when I was ‘FFF-ing’ – ‘fearfully forecasting the future’. We can choose to take a step back from negative and fearful thoughts, accept that we are human and that it’s ok to have such thoughts. We can then choose how to behave despite our thoughts.

When I felt fear about giving up my job as a lawyer, I consciously chose to press ahead with my plans despite my fears. As Satre put it: There is no traded-out path to lead man to his salvation; he must constantly invent his own path. But to invent it, he is free, responsible, without excuse, and every hope lies within him.” Frightening, liberating and thrilling.

Create space & trust your gut: Tuning into your intuition can be difficult when our lives are so full, complicated and exhausting. Creating space, even as simple as going for a 10 minute walk, meditating for 5 minutes, sitting with a coffee, can give our minds the space it needs to be heard. “Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” – William S. Burroughs.

Lawyer using computer

Time For Life

A ‘digital nomad’ is not without its challenges. And it certainly would not suit everyone. What is important is that we have enough space for joy in our lives, whatever ‘joy’ looks like to you. We must make time for life.