It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf
In the stress-rich, high functioning and competitive culture and environment that is the ‘norm’ in many law firms, it is no surprise that many lawyers are suffering from increasing levels of stress, burnout and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.
To survive in this cut-throat environment, what you, as a lawyer, need to do is to build and develop your ‘resilience muscle’.
Just what is resilience? Essentially, this is your ability to deal with stressful situations and adversities and your ability to quickly and effectively ‘bounce back’ from such situations so as to not only better manage stress but also to ‘get back up and running’ and to function productively. This is a skill, a muscle that thankfully you can build and develop – and as a result ensure that you are better able to have a long, healthy career and ‘legal life’.
On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated through it. Raise your sail and begin.
― Gregory S. Williams
So just how do you, as an ambitious lawyer, acquire resilience if you don’t have it? How do you build this muscle and maintain your sanity? The good news is that resilience is something you can, through practice, learn and acquire.
Here are some ‘resilience-building tools and tips’:
When finding yourself in a highly stressful situation, one of your best tools is your breath. When you notice your shoulders rising, that you are starting to feel ‘hot under the collar’, pause and take 2-3 long deep breaths.
Another critical and medically proven tool is practicing some form of meditation.
- Rewire Your Negative Self-Talk
In neuroscience, there is a common phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together”. In other words, the more you allow yourself to dwell in negative thinking patterns, the more your mind will focus on and default to such thoughts.
The reverse, thankfully, is also true. The more you practice training your mind to focus on and think more positive thoughts, for example, thinking about things you are grateful for, looking for the positive outcomes, the stronger your positive thought patterns will become – and therefore the more likely you will be able to view a situation from a “glass is half-full” lens vs a “glass half empty” lens.
The more you train yourself to think more positively, the more likely you are going to be able to ‘bounce back’ from a setback and get back to being productive.
- Lighten Up & Let Go
Don’t be so hard on yourself! Lawyers are their own worst ‘enemies’, placing immense self-imposed pressures on themselves, always thinking that they are not doing well enough, striving towards unrealistic goals.
Take some pressure off of yourself, learn to ‘let go’ and accept what you cannot change or control and instead place your energies and focus on what you can control.
- Build a strong internal network
We are relational beings, we get our energy and affirmation from our relationship with others. Work on forging and creating a strong internal network of colleagues and friends you can go to when feeling overwhelmed – so as to get someone else’s thoughts and perspectives on a matter. Not only will this help stop you spiralling into a negative ‘black hole’ but it will also help you gain another viewpoint, perhaps more realistic, perspective on an issue. In essence, strong internal relationships are critical to emotional resilience.
- Work Smarter Not Harder
Sounds obvious but not always easy to do. Learn to better manage and maximize your efficiency and productivity. How?
- Set clear boundaries – you don’t need to be available 24/7!
- Practice Self-Care
- Learn the power of saying ‘no’
- Create a routine
- Stop multitasking
- Automate rote tasks
- Cultivate “Own-time”
Ensure you make time to do activities, hobbies you enjoy and that energise you and ‘take your mind’ off every-day work, even if just for a short period of time. Not only will this help you return to the business at hand with renewed energy but it will also help you view the situation through a new lens – and as a result help you to find more creative, workable solutions.
- Learn from your ‘mistakes’
I tried and failed. I tried again and again and succeeded.”
― Gail Borden
We all make mistakes – no-one is exempt. However, how you react and respond to your mistakes will determine how you deal with adversity and how resilient you are. Learn to reframe your mistakes as an opportunity to learn and to grow – in this way you are more likely to ‘bounce back’ from ‘failure’ more quickly and effectively and are more likely to learn what to avoid the next time a challenging situation presents itself.
Successful people demonstrate their resilience through their dedication to making progress every day, even if that progress is marginal.”
― Jonathan Mills