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Wellness & Beyond

How to Cultivate Your Resilience as a Lawyer

August 02, 2022

By Ashley M. Stephenson

Throughout our lives, we face adversities of varying magnitude. Nobody is impenetrable to life's constant changes. As a legal professional, you will experience work challenges on top of personal ones. How are youflower growing out of desert going to remain strong when problems mount? You need resilience.

Resilience will determine how successful you are when life throws rock-solid punches. I describe resilience as the ability to bounce forward and adapt to life’s setbacks. A resilient person doesn’t see life through rose-colored glasses, but instead has the ability to see past their problems, to process stress and their feelings, and to not be conquered by their problems, regardless of their scope.

Because stress is as much physical as it is emotional, it can have negative effects on one’s body, from weight gain to increased risk of hypertension and stroke. Therefore, the ability to keep going with a positive view is important for survival. Here are a couple other reasons to build resilience:

It protects your mental health. Every adversity or hardship has the potential to either degrade or improve your psychological health. A person lacking in resilience gives up and then refuses to try again for fear of failing. This negative attitude has an impact on how they perceive and navigate life. A resilient person, on the other hand, repeatedly tries despite numerous failures.

It creates a stronger you. Failures and disappointments are viewed as opportunities to regroup and reemerge as a more formidable opponent. Despite a growing list of disappointments or setbacks, these occurrences fortify your determination to get to the next level and strengthen your resolve to improve. You outgrow challenges and laugh at new developments. 

Resilience is something that takes time to build and can vary dramatically from one person to the next. It’s not an end goal but a mindset — a way of life. There is a plethora of ways to develop mental resilience, but here are five ways you can do so as a legal professional:

1. Learn from others. While resilience is often considered an attribute learned through experience, it doesn’t have to be limited to your own personal experience. With so much happening in the world around you, there's much to learn about resilience from others. If you are dealing with issues at the office, for example, have you considered chatting with colleagues who’ve been confronted with comparable difficulties? Don't permit pride or feelings to hinder your development and opportunities to dive into the minds of more experienced people around you.

2. Size up the adversity and act accordingly. Learn to evaluate challenges when they arise. Does a situation convey sufficient weight to stress over it? Who benefits when you’re consumed by an issue? Instead of letting anxiety and distress get the better of you, create a plan when significant issues arise. And, out of caution that the plan may not go as intended, create a backup plan. Perhaps you've missed the mark on billable hours or client demands. To prevent a reoccurrence, learn from the situation and effectively deal with the factors that led to it. Significant or not, no challenge, criticism, or disappointment merits consistently worrying about. 

3. Cultivate patience and endurance. We’ve all heard the saying “Patience is a virtue.” Truly, it is. Unfortunately, some problems will stick with you. Perhaps your career has taken off, but life happens and your mental resistance is tested. When you build mental resilience, your psychological health is safeguarded. When cultivating patience and endurance, you refuse to allow a negative situation to permit you from living life. You’re willing to pursue your objectives regardless of whether they take a significant amount of time to see fulfillment. In doing so, you develop new ways to deal with new circumstances while being hopeful that, despite the fact that some things may never change, one thing is certain: life goes on. 

4. Control negative emotions. Ruminating on what was or what could have been can destroy one’s energy. Learn to control your emotions. At the point when you're free from pessimistic thoughts, you work inside your circle of influence. In other words, focus on what you can control and ignore what you can’t. Focus on the positive.

5. Accept your reality. It’s best to recognize that sometimes when it rains, it pours, but this too shall pass. The quicker you acknowledge that life isn’t your friend, the less disheartened you’ll be when significant issues arise and shift your circumstances. When you accept the fact that some things may not change as rapidly or in the way that you hoped for, you shift your focus, open up to other potential outcomes, and work around your current situation. Things may change or continue as before. Whatever the outcome, resilience will help you deal with it confidently, as long as you continue looking and bouncing forward. 

Ashley M. Stephenson is an author, legal professional, and personal development specialist based in New York City. Her latest book is Rise Up: Be Resilient Like You’re Running Out of Time.