Continuous Improvement

Want a competitive advantage? Think positive.

September 19, 2016

“Positivity opens us. The first core truth about positive emotions is that they open our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and more creative.”
– From Positivity, by Barbara Fredrickson.

Gaining a competitive advantage in the incredibly competitive legal profession may be simpler than you think. In fact, it may be all about how you think and what you think about. The idea that positivity can make you a better, more successful lawyer may sound ridiculous to you. After all, lawyers spend most of their time looking for and solving problems. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for creating and focusing on the positive.

And that is exactly why cultivating positivity is so important for lawyers. Lawyers deal with a tremendous amount of stress each day. According to the American Psychological Association, lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.  Law is a serious profession and lawyers are serious people.  You may be thinking to yourself, “There just isn’t room or time for ‘positivity.’”  I’m here to tell you that if you allow more positivity and positive emotions in your life, you’ll not only be a better lawyer for your clients, you’ll be a healthier lawyer and a happier lawyer. You’ll be a healthier and happier person. Positivity is the mindset you need to create the competitive advantage you’re looking for.

We may not be able to quantify the exact amount of positivity we need to be at our best with the accuracy of a mathematical equation, but we know intrinsically that positivity feels good.  Studies have shown that people who face life-threatening illnesses with positivity fare much better – and live longer – than those who focus on the negative. You may know someone like this yourself. Significantly for lawyers, we think more creatively when we are in a positive state of mind. And finding creative solutions to complex problems is a skill set that won’t soon be commoditized. So – bottom line – your clients benefit from your positivity.  But even more importantly, YOU benefit from your positivity.

5 Ways to Increase Your Positivity

  1. Practice Gratitude. Start and end the day being grateful for all the good things in your life. If you like, you can write down three things each day that you are grateful for in a journal. Check out the app Day One for easy journaling. Something as simple as waking up in a comfortable bed is a reason to be grateful.
  2. Go on a news diet. Just as you need to be aware of what you put in your body if you want to be healthy, you need to be aware of what you put in your mind. If you’re a news junkie and are bombarded with push notifications and updates about the latest tragedies from around the world, or if you are always listening to news radio in your car, take a break. I’m not suggesting you should be uninformed, but you’ll be amazed at how your mindset can shift if you’re not constantly ingesting negative news.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. You may not be able to remove all of the negative people in your life, but choose to spend your time with positive people who make you feel great. And if “Debby Downer” knocks on your door to share her latest drama, respond positively. Help her find the comedy in the drama. (It’s always there.) You’ll be helping her to be more positive, too. And if she doesn’t appreciate your positive outlook, she’ll stop coming to you to vent about things she really doesn’t want a solution for.
  4. Be kind. Look for opportunities to show kindness throughout the day. Simply smiling more often at those around you can raise your positivity quotient. I don’t mean a fake smile. A genuine smile. Ninety-nine percent of the time your smile will be returned. And that feels great.
  5. Practice Mindfulness. I’ve written about meditation in several posts. I believe the awareness that mindfulness brings is at the core of any type of behavioral change. There are many great resources available to learn about meditation, but my personal favorite is HeadSpace. If you can practice mindfulness meditation for even two minutes a day, it will make a difference in your life. A positive difference.

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