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Legal Careers

Not Just for Women: Kick Your Power Up a Notch

By Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

Sometimes women let circumstances and self-imposed obligations get between themselves and their big dreams, says Nancy O’Reilly, editor of the new book “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life.” She believes the key to getting all that stuff out of the way is reconnecting with your personal passion. (And that goes for men, too, actually.) But how?

Maybe long ago (high school?)  — before your mind was muddled by adult responsibilities and cultural “norms” — you really did know what you were put here on earth to do. But now? Probably not so much. So today we’re sharing five things O’Reilly — a clinical psychologist and motivational speaker — suggests you do to reconnect with that fundamental fire in your belly, and kick your power up a notch.

1. Deliberately get uncomfortable. No one ever did anything great by staying in their comfort zone. But exploring new territory can be scary stuff — most of us will avoid it if we can. Unfortunately, by doing so, you also avoid growth. That’s why it’s so important to not only push yourself but to engage with others who challenge you, make you think, and sometimes even make you angry. “The messages that set us on fire are not always delivered in a positive way,” says O’Reilly. “Believe it or not, my own journey began with my high school counselor, who advised me to forget about college and look into secretarial school. Well, that advice ignited something powerful within me — but not in the way the counselor intended!”

2. No excuses: Start working out. Don’t worry, O’Reilly is not going to harp on your BMI, cholesterol or blood pressure (though those things are important). The fact is, if you feel tired, stiff, weak or in pain, you are unlikely to take on that next ambitious challenge. Then the less you do, the less you can do. “It takes stamina to push yourself out of your comfort zone!” O’Reilly notes. “And besides helping you build up the physical resources you need, exercise relieves stress, helps you relax, and produces the ‘happy hormones’ that keep you strong and resilient. In short, you must exercise to be at your best.”

3. Move to “Connecting 2.0.” Too much of the “connecting” we do is of the “mile-wide, inch-deep” variety, says O’Reilly. (Facebook, anyone?) But real connecting is not just about attending meet-and-greets and collecting hundreds of social media friends. It’s much deeper. It requires you to stop wondering, “What can I get from you?” and start thinking, “What can we accomplish together?” This is what she calls “Connecting 2.0” — and making the shift, she says, changes everything. “As you seek out ways to collaborate with other great women, aim for a good mix of social networking, phone time and face time. And remember, this isn’t all about business. It’s also about building real relationships.” Even introverts won’t mind doing this once they see how good it feels to connect this way.

4. Look to your friends. After years of doing what they think they should be doing instead of what they want to be doing, many people simply lose touch with their own strengths and skills. Sound familiar? Friends, particularly those who have known you for some time, can be a great resource. “In some ways, they know you better than you know yourself,” says O’Reilly. “They aren’t bogged down by your particular routine and worries, and they are in a better position to notice the things that make you smile … what you’re inherently good at.” So ask: What do your friends admire about you? What do they encourage you to accomplish?

5. Practice staying present. How often have you “lost” a few minutes — or a whole hour — staring into the middle distance, fretting about something that happened in the past or worrying about what might happen in the future? The point Reilly makes is that as long as you are distracted by rehashing the argument with your teenager, or concerned about how a client will respond to your proposal, you aren’t focusing, creating, doing or developing. “When you can learn to stay present, you’ll fret less and become more powerful,” says O’Reilly. It isn’t easy, but she suggests you tune in to what you’re seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting right now.

Bonus Tip

This year, do one thing to change the world. This is an important one. Seeing a positive difference in the world because of something you did taps into a powerful well of motivation. You don’t have to solve world hunger or found an orphanage. Start small. For instance, organize a panel of successful entrepreneurs to speak to a local business group. Start volunteering at a local animal shelter. Or simply make it a routine to pick up the litter you encounter on your walks through the neighborhood.

“A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama,” says O’Reilly. “He impressed me when he said that the future of the world rests in the hands of Western women, but we would be able to fulfill this destiny only when we wake up. I so believe this, and I also think changing your corner of the world for the better invigorates your whole being. It’s an amazing way to access your power.”

Illustration ©

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Legal Career Development, Passions, You At Work
Originally published May 15, 2015
Last updated August 31, 2018
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Merrilyn Astin Tarlton Merrilyn Astin Tarlton

Merrilyn is the author of “Getting Clients: For Lawyers Starting Out or Starting Over.” She has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She is a founding member of the Legal Marketing Association, an LMA Hall of Fame inductee, and a past President of the College of Law Practice Management. Merrilyn was a founding partner of Attorney at Work. 

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