You may or may not be familiar with the cautionary tale of King Midas and the “Midas Touch” (or the “Midas Curse,” depending on your viewpoint): a Greek myth about a Phrygian king who was obsessed with gold and wealth. After Silenus (a fellow worshipper of the Bacchus, the God of wine) had been captured, King Midas released and then feted his friend for 10 days and nights.
In return for this good deed, Bacchus allowed Midas to choose his reward. Midas, who loved gold more than almost anything else in the world, asked Bacchus to: “Cause whatsoever I shall touch to change at once to yellow gold.”
At first, Midas revelled in his new power: he started by turning a twig, stone, spears of wheat, an apple, and then a door into gold. Delighted with his gift, he kept on touching and transforming objects into gold.
Eventually, a hungry and thirsty Midas returned to his palace and called for his servants to bring him food and wine. However, both food and drink turned into gold the minute they touched his mouth. Surrounded by untold riches, a starving and parched Midas came to hate the gold he had so lately loved and deeply regretted his choice for wealth above everything – and everyone – else.
The psychological gems in this story are many and meaningful. What may not be so apparent is how it applies to family lawyers.
The Midas Curse and Family Lawyers
My father was a depression-era baby and was one of the “greatest generation.” He spent a great deal of time amassing great wealth and having an incredibly successful career. However, he was consumed with the fear of losing his great wealth and often raged about threats to his financial success.
As King Midas realized when he was literally starving while surrounded by riches, there is not enough wealth in the world to make up for losing your health, your relationships, and your self-worth.
It is easy to spot attorneys who sacrifice their personal and family life to their career and spend long hours at the office to the detriment of their relationships. I now regularly work with lawyers who hit their “wall” when their health and personal relationships are suffering to the point of losing them. All of their business and career success can quickly be lost when they lose their well-being.
There are numerous, subtle signals that you may be suffering from the Midas Curse. If you are suffering from these circumstances, you need to pay attention to your beliefs and focus before you lose everyone and everything you love.
5 Signs You Are Suffering from the “Midas Curse”
- You judge your self-worth based on your productivity. You compare yourself to your colleagues or your partners and if you aren’t the biggest producer, you get stressed. You need to judge your self-worth on your relationships with family and friends.
- You feel guilty if you aren’t working. This is a clear sign you are heading for a break down. No one can do anything exclusively for any length of time without having problems. We all need a balanced life.
- Your biggest goal is tied to your net worth. Money is important, but like Midas, it can be toxic. The problem with money is there is never enough. I deal with enough attorneys who are suffering in their careers to recognize that the more money you make the more money you want. It is human nature to want more of what pleases you.
- You neglect your health. The only thing that is important is your income and net worth. You may eat too much to deal with the stress, or you drink or drug too much to deal with the pain that accompanies never ending desire. Our health is one of our greatest assets. Without it, all of your wealth will be going to doctors and you would do anything to trade your wealth for health. Pay attention to what you eat, exercise and pay attention to your mental and emotional health.
- You postpone happiness. Somehow the pain of sacrifice seems noble and the money is worth the pain. As someone who crashed and burned chasing after a successful career, happiness that is postponed is never realized.
As King Midas realized when he was literally starving while surrounded by riches, there is not enough wealth in the world to make up for losing your health, your relationships, and your self-worth. As lawyers, we need to examine our relationship with and core beliefs about money and wealth to ensure that we are not suffering from the Midas curse.
I have spent the past 16 years learning how to be a successful lawyer and be happy at the same time. This is not an impossible feat – although I urge you to seek out the right coach to help you avoid burnout, build resilience, and start enjoying your career again.
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