By Marc Lopez, The Marc Lopez Law Firm
Every day of my life, I spend a significant amount of time grappling with other people’s issues. My clients need help, and they expect that I can provide it. In many cases, unfortunately, the people I’m helping seem to interpret my assistance as an invitation to go on creating more problems. In my darker moments, I sometimes imagine that I’m an ER doctor, and just as I’ve managed to stop the bleeding from the patient’s femoral artery, I look up and see that he’s eating broken glass by the handful. You can’t save everyone.
This sentiment is nothing new to attorneys—solving problems is what we do. It’s challenging, however, when our clients seem committed to self-sabotage. Experience tells me that this cycle perpetuates itself in all areas of practice, whether we’re talking about criminal defense, contract negotiations, or a custody dispute. When your livelihood depends on your ability to successfully navigate other people’s troubles, it’s not an easy thing to stay positive. The New York Times reported in 20161 that one in three practicing lawyers qualify as “problem drinkers.” I wish those numbers were surprising to me.
It’s tough to stay optimistic in a career that requires you to remain hip-deep in crisis, but there’s more than one reason to look on the bright side. First of all, your life may depend on it. A recent Stanford University study has linked negative self-perception to a shorter lifespan, conversely suggesting that an affirmative outlook can increase longevity. It’s also worth noting that upbeat people are objectively more attractive than mopey wet blankets and neurotic worrywarts. In a profession where the flow of new business is directly related to interpersonal relations, a good attitude can be the difference between a decent month and a great one.
Staying positive, of course, is easier said than done. How are you supposed to project happiness and confidence when you don’t feel cheerful? Some of my favorite practical advice on this topic comes from former Columbia University Assistant Clinical Professor of Medical Psychology Erin Olivo. In her Psychology Today blog, Dr. Olivo has promoted a number of methods for increasing and maintaining positivity. Here are my favorites:
Smile. An upturned mouth is emotionally-powerful—so powerful, in fact, that not only can it convince strangers you’re in a good mood, it can trick your own brain into thinking this, as well.
Keep a gratitude journal. Appreciation is impossible without reflection, so I frequently make a point of asking my employees to share a personal victory that they’ve achieved in the past 24 hours. Then we record them in a private Slack channel so we can all bask in each other’s success.
Send at least one thank-you card or email every day. Apart from greeting the world with a grin, this is probably the most effective way to consistently promote a joyful environment. When someone does something awesome, let them know. I like to think of this as a way of planting seeds of positivity. After all, you can’t reap what you don’t sow.
If you have any tips, tricks or tidbits for smiling in the face of adversity, I’d love to hear them. Send me an email, or—if you’re willing to eat at 11 a.m.—let’s grab lunch sometime.
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