Modern lawyers are faced with the demands that come with a global economy, ever-evolving frontiers of law, and rapid technological change. The ability to adapt to high-pressure situations and perform under stress—key functions of resilience—has never been more critical.
According to the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and to grow from challenges. Between long, often isolating, hours spent at the office and unrealistically high expectations, the role of a lawyer is undoubtedly challenging. Building resilience creates opportunities to grow and develop both professionally and personally. These benefits include:
- Greater Creativity & Problem-Solving Skills: Resilient lawyers are not as likely to be inhibited by their fear of failure or perfectionism. This makes it easier to have the courage to take more risks and innovate to solve problems.
- Improves Well-Being and Quality of Life: Resiliency training can decrease negative thoughts, and increase happiness, reducing the likelihood and effects of stress, depression and anxiety, and even morbidity due to chronic conditions.
- Greater Job Satisfaction and Career Longevity: Resilient lawyers are less likely to experience burnout, set realistic goals, and are more likely to look forward to new challenges in their careers.
Building resilience, like so many things, requires time, intention, and effort. Try these tips to get started:
Harness positive thinking
At work, lawyers are often required to analyze client matters for issues and pitfalls or examine an issue through a black and white lens. Over time, this cognitive approach can sometimes become a default out of the office as well. In certain situations, this can become stress-inducing and discouraging. It can be helpful to try to train your brain to shift from negatives to positives. Pay attention to times when you evaluate a situation or problem by asking questions like “What is wrong?” or “What will go wrong?” Instead, ask yourself, “What is going well?” or “What possibilities lie ahead?”
Next time you encounter a viewpoint different from your own, think about what a compromise of the two would look like first, before trying to determine who is right or wrong.
Appreciate your own skills and strengths
Acknowledging our own skills and strengths and the role they play in our successes helps us build confidence and self-efficacy.
Make, nurture, and deepen social connections
Our social connections are integral to our health and happiness. They help us overcome adversity, grow our own mindsets, and even live longer lives. When we think of meaningful relationships, we tend to think of close friends and family first, but our more casual ties are also important to how we experience the world, shape our thinking, and our overall quality of life. Research tells us that both weak ties and strong ties are key to building “social capital,” or our relationships and how we benefit from them.
Try this: Take the Social Capital Quiz, published by Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. After the quiz, you will receive your social capital score along with feedback for how to strengthen your social connections.
Practice gratitude and kindness
It may sound simple, but practicing gratitude will help you develop resilience and rewire your brain to think more positively. Practicing gratitude makes us more resilient, because positive emotions created through this practice widening our perspective and creativity, as well as make us more likely to seek help, be resourceful, and tackle challenges with optimism.
Try this: In a recent interview with Thrive Global, clinical psychologist Dr. Lillian Nejad, shares how practicing gratitude can make us more resilient, as well as four excellent exercises practicing gratitude.
Shift your perspective
Cultivating optimism starts with reframing the way you analyze challenges, issues and situations.