Editor’s Note: This is the sixth and final part of a 6-part series. If you have not already read the previous entries, take a moment to do so. They’re worth it. (Here they are – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.)
I recently heard a leading sports psychologist say, “Sports are analog, not digital.” He was making the point that both physical and mental performance skills must be practiced, practiced, practiced, but once the sporting event starts, athletes still need to adapt moment by moment to the unplanned and unexpected. That’s the way of humans, he was saying, and the way of sports.
In his book Programmed to Run, Thomas S. Miller, another sports psychologist and noted marathon trainer, describes our right brain as analog, and our left brain as digital.
[D]igital computers… follow exact sequences of steps, address one item at a time, and produce one solution for each problem. Similarly, the left brain deals primarily with verbal tasks, analysis, organization, planning, judgment, evaluation, and ego-speak (rational thought).
[Our right brains], on the other hand, produce an array of solutions to any one problem and are able to address several issues at one time. The right brain is best suited to run performance programs. Athletic, musical, and artistic skills, along with intuition, creativity, and imagination, are generally attributed to the right brain.
He goes on to describe how to tap both left- and right-brained functions in marathon training. We can use the same concept in the field of law, where there’s a common misperception that what we do is entirely left-brained. True – the law relies heavily on left-brain functions such as language, analysis, logic, and reason, but as long as it’s practiced by humans, our right brains are also still operating, serving up multiple outlooks and outcomes, and offering creative resolutions. How much we pay attention to both sides shapes the nature of our experience of the practice (whether we’re happy or not) and our effectiveness.
If we want to create whole, healthy, organic, and sustainable morphic fields for our clients and ourselves, we’ll embrace both sides of who we are. Trouble is, much of modern law practice management is still entrenched in late 19th and early 20th Century management theory, which was highly left-brained, mechanistic, and in sync with Teddy Roosevelt’s notions of “national efficiency.” As a result, law practice is often skewed to the left-brain side.
The human psyche is not so easily carved up or its functions so easily isolated without impairing the effectiveness of the whole. Lawyers are not as digital as our obsession with practice management technology would lead us to believe. We’re not just hyper-connected billable hour machines. If we want whole, healthy professionals providing both logical and imaginative client solutions, we need both analog and digital. Coordinating both is the heart of sustainable performance.