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The Friday Five

5 Ways to Create Your Path to Positivity

By Camille Stell

The benefits of positivity for your law firm? Positive emotions can lower stress, improve coping skills and even open your mind — and that benefits everyone, from team members to clients. 

A few weeks before the pandemic struck the U.S., Erin Levine was sharing a story at the Atlanta Legal Tech conference. Erin had been talking with her office staff about the negative nature of their family law clients and how wearing it was for everyone involved, when a team member said:

“Isn’t this negativity what we are telling our clients to expect? Isn’t this how we describe divorce on our website? Aren’t these the images we use — two parents fighting over their children pulling their outstretched arms?”

This comment came as a revelation to Erin and started a journey toward a more positive experience in family law for clients and the firm. Changing the branding and name of the firm to Hello Divorce was one step in a complete revolution of her divorce practice. Today Hello Divorce offers a subscription-based, easy, affordable online process — and has successfully raised funding to expand the platform.

Similarly, Leigh Daniel is a family law attorney who tripled her gross income by promoting a “positive, peaceful approach to divorce,” according to Forbes.

Leigh reports that her work was taking a toll and “she felt dissatisfied and miserable.” In searching for resources to help, she found the work of author Mike Dooley and became inspired to create the law practice she truly wanted. She became intentional about her path to happiness and positivity, and it wasn’t long before referrals and business followed — clients who were also searching for a better experience.

Benefits of Positivity

The Mayo Clinic says positive thinking offers many benefits, ranging from increased life span to better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.

Having a positive culture in your workplace can reduce stress, increase productivity, improve client relationships, improve decision-making and motivate others.

The upside of developing a culture of positivity for your law firm is that everyone benefits, from team members to clients.

Science of Positivity

Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, published a landmark paper on positive thinking. Fredrickson theorizes that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills that provide value to your life.

Negative emotions do the opposite. Building skills for future use is irrelevant when your brain is seeing danger and your fight-or-flight response kicks in.

Path to Positivity: 5 Steps

Negativity is contagious, but so is optimism. I view myself as an optimist — and most days my glass is overflowing. That is because most of the time, I intentionally choose to see the day in that way. On the days I fall into office gossip or fretting about deadlines, I’m as gloomy as the next person. But the gloom weighs me down. My preference is to see the world through rose-colored glasses. So, I set positivity as my default.

That may not work for you. So here are five tips to create your own path to positivity.

1. Look for small wins

It’s great to celebrate a successful financial quarter or a big court win, but it’s equally important to keep your eyes open daily for something worth celebrating. I delight in positive comments from clients about the peace of mind they feel after a consulting call. Or a positive email about an article I wrote, or a compliment on an outfit I wore to work. These small moments make me smile and keep me encouraged during the day.

2. Encourage others

I love to spread positive vibes. I’ll compliment a new haircut or when IT goes above and beyond to help me with a tech problem. Seeing others smile is contagious and I hope they carry the benefits of positivity forward and the office environment feels uplifted.

3. Be intentional

Let’s assume that most of us want to be a part of something bigger. Both Erin and Leigh were helping their clients get divorced — solving their legal problem. But they were doing so in a way that was making their firms and clients miserable. Both set out on a path of intentionality to make family law less of a Hunger Games experience than a collaborative effort to move into the next season of life with hope and optimism.

4. Take time off

Work is busy and it’s hard to get away, but you will benefit from taking time off. Even a staycation affords the chance to change your daily scenery and constant attachment to technology. You will feel more creative, refreshed and energized when you return after some time away. (Related: “How to Take a Vacation” by Jamie Spannhake.)

5. Use a positive vocabulary

Swearing seems more accepted in our society today. Studies suggest that swearing activates evolutionary structures inside the right half of our brain and that when we swear, our heart rate rises, activating the amygdala and the fight-or-flight response. And the rising heart rate can help us alleviate pain — hence the midnight swearing when we stub our toe. Swearing also allows us to express strong emotions without resorting to punching someone. However, my personal experience is when I clean up my language, I clean up my emotions. When I avoid swear words and stop ruminating in my anger or frustration, it passes quicker. A positive vocabulary could lead to more positivity in your daily experience.

Law life is complex, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. It is possible to change your mindset — and even the direction of your law practice — to experience the benefits of positivity.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Camille Stell Camille Stell

Camille Stell is President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and co-author of “Designing A Succession Plan for Your Law Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide for Preparing and Packaging Your Firm for Maximum Value.” Camille is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, a member of the inaugural Pro Bono Resource Center Advisory Board, and has been recognized by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly as a member of the inaugural class of “Leaders in the Law.” Follow her @camillestell.

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