Over the years in my practice as an attorney, I have become keenly aware that people are constantly searching for something: it may be victory over injury or illness, or peace from the turmoil that has upended their lives, or something more that can’t really be described by words. This search isn’t limited to my clients, people who have been injured through no fault of their own. It seems to be a universal endeavor, common to human beings the world over, especially among adults. Some are searching for meaning. Others are searching for purpose (yes, there is a difference). A small segment of the population is no longer searching either because they have found what they are looking for or, tragically, because they no longer believe they can find it.
Yet some people seem to find purpose and meaning everywhere they look. And this is what I see in the picture my daughter took on the 4th of July. She was just enjoying herself and the hundred-degree weather when she took this photo. Yes, she was happy to celebrate another national holiday with family and friends, but there’s more to it than that.
Of course, she knows little or nothing about what we now call the “peace” sign. She doesn’t know that in the modern era it was popularized by Winston Churchill who was making a bold declaration of an impending Allied victory. She doesn’t know that the counterculture of the 60’s adopted the sign as a symbol of peace. Nor does she understand the irony that victory in war often brings peace. Regardless, she has found an easy way to express the peace and happiness that she finds in living. And she is living without a real care for the turmoil that most of us perceive to be in the world.
Somehow we lose some of the joy and happiness inherent in life as we leave childhood behind and begin to face the world with grit and determination, or calculation and fear. The growth mindset that is so common among children that allows for greater creativity and resourcefulness, even in using something so simple as a paperclip, becomes a thing of the past. Life becomes fixed and there is little we can do to change it. Or so we begin to think.
But there is a counterweight to this. It has been said that we are the average of our five closest friends. The old English saying is “Birds of a feather flock together”. In Spanish it’s “Si quieres saber quien eres, dime con quien andas.” In my experience, if your friends have a growth mindset, you will too. If your friends find peace and happiness in living, you will too. If your friends live life with purpose and meaning, you will too.
I have found this to be true in my personal life and have seen it at Anderson Law. When we surround ourselves with people who are willing to learn and grow, to mix work with play, and to treat each other like family, we end up with the ability to overcome the obstacles that we come across in life. In fact, we begin to see obstacles less as impossible roadblocks and more as challenges that can be extremely rewarding, whether or not they were self-imposed. We become much less concerned with the power that external forces have over our lives when we realize that we have an inherent ability to use them for our benefit.
At this point, you might be thinking “Does this mean I should be changing my friends?” The answer depends, I guess, on who your friends are. We all know it’s not that easy to find new friends, so how about just starting with adding one friend who has the attributes that you are looking for? Even if you aren’t sure what it is that you are looking for, there’s a good chance that your new friend can help. And, who knows, maybe you’ll find greater meaning along the way.