We all face setbacks in our careers. But, not all of us bounce back from those setbacks successfully. In competitive law firm and in-house environments, the ability for women lawyers to cope with everyday pressures and stand strong in the face of adversity is essential. Today’s global marketplace presents women lawyers with increasingly complex issues. The higher level of complexity requires a higher level of thought to make more effective decisions as well as grit to bounce back. Rising up to challenges and effectively managing difficult situations are fundamental leadership skills. Building resilience is, therefore, an important competence to develop.
Here are 10 proven ways women lawyers can boost their resiliency.
1. Lean In
It is a natural human tendency to turn in the other direction when we encounter trouble. But the best way to boost your resilience is not to run from challenges, but rather to lean into them. Leaning into challenges requires a change in perspective. Instead of seeing challenges as painful, we need to see challenges as an opportunity to test our mettle, build our character, and see what we are made of. Facing and overcoming challenges builds our strength and sharpens our ability to better manage stressors that come our way.
2. Ask the Right Questions
Setbacks and failure can be avoided and/or managed more effectively by asking the right questions. When encountering a challenge, it is important not to make any assumptions. Rather, we need to ask as many questions as possible to be clear on what the underlying issues are and how we can work toward a positive outcome.
3. Manage Conflict
Workplace conflict is inevitable. Rather than avoid conflict, resilient women lawyers seek to address difficult situations professionally and respectfully. They engage in difficult conversations, seek common ground, and preserve relationships.
4. Admit Mistakes
Making mistakes is part of life. Effective leadership calls for transparency and accountability. Resilient women lawyers admit their mistakes, learn from them and do better next time.
5. Be Humble
The best leaders are humble. Many associate humility with weakness. But in fact, humility is the ability to accurately assess our strengths and limitations. It takes sober judgment and confidence to self-assess. Genuine humility is fundamental to resilience, and it inspires an environment of honesty and trust.
6. Take Risks
Taking risks builds confidence and sharpens our ability to be decisive. Resilient women lawyers are willing to try new things and experiment with new ideas to address difficult situations, and consider the consequences of potential actions. The more risks we take, the more thoughtful we become in analyzing various scenarios and in solving problems more creatively.
7. Think Positively
Our thoughts are powerful. Thoughts shape our outlook on life and how we approach situations that we are faced with. The more we focus on something, the more likely we are to make that thing a reality in our lives. When we entertain negative thoughts, we undermine our ability to be strong and fight back. But when we think positively, we develop the confidence to forge ahead against the tide despite the circumstances.
8. Speak Words of Affirmation
Our words are just as powerful as our thoughts. Our spoken words can influence our moods, feelings, and perceptions, as well as those around us. There is a clear causal effect: positive words create positive responses and reactions. Negative words lead to negative outcomes. So, speak words of affirmation over the situations you face—words that inspire you and motivate you to overcome obstacles. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- I am an overcomer.
- I refuse to live in fear.
- I will not dwell on the negative.
- On the other side of adversity, I find wisdom, strength, and confidence.
- This too shall pass.
9. Build Community
The old adage “there is strength in numbers” is true. When we are part of a community, we feel empowered and protected. Often, when we encounter challenges and share them with trusted friends, we learn that they too have experienced similar challenges. We draw strength from knowing that they made it to the other side. We also find comfort in knowing that others will encourage us, share their wisdom and stand by our side when we encounter challenges.
10. Take Care of Yourself
Facing difficulties is much more manageable when we are well-rested and physically fit. When we’re preoccupied with worries, we tend to lose sleep, overanalyze situations, and we may even skip meals. But the best way to approach a challenging situation is with a clear mind. A good night’s sleep can give you a fresh new perspective. Maintaining a physical fitness routine and eating wholesome foods will also help you maintain a consistent energy level, and give you the fuel you need to feel physically strong. No matter what setting you work in, people need time to de-stress and relax. Take a step back from your work to gain perspective on how you’re spending your time and the steps you’re taking to build your resilience. Clear your mind with meditation, essay writing, or other activities that encourage you to self-reflect. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you in the long run; when you look back on your career years later, you’ll see how taking the time for self-care helped you to bounce back and be more resilient.
About the Author
Ellie Nieves is vice president and counsel for government affairs for the Guardian Life Insurance Company, and is a frequent speaker on women’s leadership development and diversity and inclusion issues. Contact her on Twitter @EllieNieves.